anghara (anghara) wrote,

How many books must a writer write...

...before we call him a writer?...

Jim Hines takes a stroll down his own bibliography lane, as it were, and is being brutally honest about the roads it took to trudge to publishing success.

His book-keeping, as it were, is probably better than my own, but it's a good meme - and I'll try and recconstruct my own oeuvre

For clarity -

Unpublished works

Eeeee. Where to start. I know I wrote a highly derivative novel when I was something like 11 or 12, but that, thankfully, doesn't survive. A couple of Honourable Mentions that deserve inclusion in this particular rubric are

- something that might, at this point, be classed as a YA novel, rejoicing in a myriad of titles, currently extant in its original form which is written out, longhand, in three hard-cover notebooks, five hundred and fifteen pages of it. *in pencil*. I was looking over it the other day - the bones of this thing are still good, and there might be some potential in here that's worth a salvage job - but as it stands, it's obvious that it was never actually, yanno, submitted anywhere... because it literally only exists in this manuscript. And it would have to be transcribed in order for anything else to happen with it. Oy vey, already...

- a shortish novel - probably no more than 50 000 words of so - called "I, Guinevere". The theme and subject are obvious - I figured that there were no accounts of the Matter of Britain from Guinevere's point of view so I proceeded to write one. Unh. She was an eavesdropping little so-and-so, which is perhaps inevitable in that age of men from which she was excluded by virtue of being the fairer sex. But I did a good job with it - it NEARLY got published, back when I was 19 or 20 or so. However, it didn't - not then - and since then the shine of novelty has worn off since there has been at least one series of Arthurian womenfolk-centered books out there. Probably doomed to remain a benchmark, but one that will not be seen by many eyes.

Published Books

The bibliography page on my website kind of covers this one in generic way but here's a rundown:

1. "The Dolphin's Daughter and other stories" (LOngman Reading Project, 1995) - a book of three Oscar Wilde-ian "fairy tales", published by Longman on a non-commercial basis, and used to this day in schools and what have you (I still get trickles of royalties from it).
How did it happen Oh,it's a very long story.... in a nutshell, I sold a story (not in this book) to the venerable London Magazine. Said story eventually saw light of day not in the magazine itself but instead in the hardcover anthology published to celebrate the mag's 30th anniversary. Editor of said anthology liked said story. I met him for tea in London one time I was there (it was a fairly interesting meeting, as I recall, because I was so completely awestruck and he was very, very kind) and he suggested an agent's name. I contacted the agent, and she sold the stories to Longman. That relationship is long defunct now, but eh, it worked for that one thing, anyway. The book is still in print, the last time I looked it was in its ninth printing...

2."Houses in Africa (David Ling (New Zealand), 1995) - I had the gall to write an autobiography of sorts before I was thirty five years old... but hey, everyone else thought my Africa years were *exotic*. Initial print run = 1500 copies, sold only in NZ and the occasional copy in Australia, now definitively OOP, I own about five copies of it and that might be all that's left.
How did it happen I was doing book reviews in NZ at the time, and I was handed a book by a Romanian guy who decided to take his NZ-born son back to the "old country" for the purpose of exploration and adventure and roots (the search for same, geneologically speaking). Halfway through the book I was hit by a strong feeling of, "Hell, I could do better than this.". So I phoned up the publisher of the Romanian review book, and I said, "Hell, I could do better than this." And the publisher said, "Send me a proposal." So I did. And he bought it. And I wrote out my life and times in Africa. The reviews that came in were wonderful, except for one thing - they all managed to work in some kind of astonishment at the book, "seeing as English is [the author's] second language" - which, for some reason, really annoyed me. If the English was bad, and merited singling out on that level, then fine and legitimate. But it felt like head-patting, otherwise. There, there, this poor foreigner scaled the Everest of English, and look, there she is, panting for breath and clinging to the edge of the mountain, her feet dangling over the precipice...

3. "Letters from the Fire" (Harper Collins NZ Flamingo, New Zealand, 1999) - the fastest book in the west. Really. From concept to bookstore shelves in less than six months. It was breathless. It was also, as far as I knew, one of the first known examples of the email epistolary novel, written in collaboration by myself and the man whom I would eventually marry, R.A.("Deck") Deckert. OOP (but we have plenty of copies in-house, for anyone who thinks they might want one...)
How did it happen America gave Serbia an untenable ultimatum, and when it was rejected America went in with bombers. 78 days of hell followed. I watched it all from far away, all the way in New Zealand, with my heart in my mouth for the safety of the family I still had back there and in anguish at the pulverization of my childhood and my memories. I was devastated. When one of Deck's friends suggested that he and I collaborate on a project on this subject I initially recoiled because it was all too close, too painful. But then the idea bloomed like a flower of fire as I watched Serbia go up in flames, and we started the novel on the quiet, exchanging emails in character, as it were, writing literally around the clock (he was in in Florida and I in NZ, with almost precisely the opposite diurnal rhythms so he'd write when I slept and vice versa). I offered it to the then-publisher of Harper Collins NZ, whom I happened to know from when he and I both worked at another NZ publisher a couple of years back. He accepted it, bless, him, and published it, and did a magnificent job of it.

4. "Changer of days" (originally written as one novel, but published by Harper Collins NZ as two volumes, "Changer of Days vol 1" and "Changer of Days vol.2", in 2001 and 2002 respectively. US editions in 2005, as "The Hidden Queen" and "Changer of Days" (Harper COllins Eos). German editions due out imminently. Just sold to Spain)<[Powells, vol. 1],[Powells, vol. 2] I remember writing this one, oh, *mumble* years ago, back in the late eighties, back when I was pursuing my MSc degree - writing a heroic fantasy novel on the fly while waiting for experiments to cook up in the lab. I knew it was good - good enough, anyway - but it still took me a decade to convince others of it. If you ever see me at a con somewhere, buy me a coffee and I'll tell you the agent story that goes with this one (it's a "don't try this at home" thing...) It must have been rejected by at least three publishers in its day before it got picked up.
How did it happen - like I said, collar me at a con for the back-story [grin] But the basic idea was, once ""Letters from the Fire" saw the light of day, I had a relationship going with Harper Collins NZ, and when they decided to start putting out a fantasy imprint I did a reader's report on one of the books they were considering. When I was done I handed them back the MS of that other novel and my report, but I also handed them my own MS. Which they accepted. The rest is history...

5. "The Secrets of Jin Shei" (Harper Collins, 2004 (HC), 2005 (TPB) in the USA; also published in a second English-language edition (UK/Australia) and in Italian, Dutch, German, Spanish, Catalan, Turkish, Czech, Lithuanian, Hebrew, Portugese and now in Russian) [Powells],[Amazon]
- the Blessed Book, the one I wrote 200 000 words of in less than four months, the one that went around the world. There's an essay about it on my website (go to the "In other words" tab at the top of the page to find it)
How did it happen I am starting to feel awfully ashamed that I can't point out to a thousand rejections - but this book was picked up right off the bat, too. I contacted an agent of my acquaintance when I was about a quarter of the way through this novel, having become aware that I would need an agent's assistance with this one - that particular agent said that she was in the process of retiring and cutting down on her list rather than seeking new clients, but that she would ask around as to who WAS in the market - one of the names she gave me is the wonderful agent with whom I am to this day. THat second agent telephoned me within two weeks of receiving her partial MS and asked if she could represent it. THe rest is history. I really am very very very VERY lucky...

6."Embers of heaven" (Harper Collins UK, 2006; also published in Lithuanian, Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish) [Powells]
My agent asked, after "Jin shei" had started out on its conquering path around the world, if there was a sequel. "No," I said. And kept saying no right until the time I tripped over the damned story that turned into "Embers," and was forced to say that yes, dammit, there was a sequel and here it was...
How did it happen written under contract, sold on the basis of a synopsis and "Jin shei"'s momentum...

7. The Worldweavers trilogy - "Gift of the Unmage", "Spellspam", "Cybermage" (Harper Collins Eos, YA trilogy, published in 2007,2008, 2009 respectively; also sold in Poland) [Powells], [Amazon]
- my first foray into YA-world. Trilogies are DAMNED hard work. Really.
How did it happen - another sale on the basis of synopsis and the rep of the previous published work. I did give them an outline. I am afraid I, uh, strayed from it, quite substantially sometimes. They still liked it, thankfully. Currently in possession of the ARC of "Spellspam", and awaiting the editorial letter for book 3. I actually had a lot of fun with these - and I have JK ROwling and Jane Yolen to thank for it. Y'see, in the World Fantasy COn of 2002 there was a panel on YA literature to which I went pretty arbitrarily - I had no plans in that arena at all, myself, but Jane Yolen and Charles de Lint were on the panel, two authors I like and admire, and I went. It all went swimmingly until someone in the audience chirped with a "what about Harry Potter" comment, after some ten minutes or so of the panel's discussing everything BUT the Potterverse. And Yolen sighed and said, "I was wondering how long it would take before that particular elephant wandered into the room." She then went on to say that she wasn't entirely happy with the way that the Potter books treated girls. I didn't hear the rest of the panel at all - I was off in my own world somewhere, shaking hands with Thea Winthrop and exploring the world of the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent ( I wanted that for the title of the first book, but they demurred...) And here we all are, five years later, and the Thea novels are (if you count "Changer" as two books) my eighth, ninth and tenth books.

I've had ten books published in 12 years. That is not a bad track record.

Currently vacillating between three (having started the necessary reading for one of them anyway, just because), awaiting editorial fiat as to where to jump next. What can I say - watch this space...
Tags: writing, writing life

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