Isn’t that just so enticing? You just want to know more!
Proof copies are an incredibly exciting part of the writing process. This is when the hard work is done. You have a book in your hand. An actual book, with a cover and an acknowledgements section and a dedication…
Of course, this is not the final product. The reason why it’s called a proof copy is that it’s, well, for proofing. So I am going to have to read This Wild, Wild Country again (I’ve only read it about 367 times before) and highlight any remaining typos, mistakes or odd layout issues.
The proof copies play another important role. They will be sent to buyers and reviewers, who will then hopefully put in lots of preorders and line up reviews in time for the book launch on 4 August.
Is this the right moment to say it? This Wild, Wild Country is now available for preorder in your favourite book shop. Do it. You know you want to…
PS: This is not the final cover. Cover reveal coming soon… watch this space!
This Wild, Wild Country is now with the typesetter, which means I will soon be holding the first printed proof in my hand. This will be a really special moment. What’s been words on a computer screen for 18 months and counting will finally be a physical thing to hold and flick through and put on a book shelf.
But the edits will not be done. First of all, the printed proof is just that – a proof copy. I will need to read it and re-read it to really make sure there are no mistakes remaining. There is other stuff to look out for: do the chapter titles look right? Is the spacing ok? Does the title fit the cover image, or is anything important being obscured?
Then there is what I call the book framework. I still have to write acknowledgements, an Author’s Note, some questions for reading groups and, most importantly, a dedication.
Meanwhile, the book will go through many hands at Bonnier, and through a sensitivity read. So there may be further edits coming at me down the line.
Like a painting, a book is never truly finished. But at some point, the editing has to stop. Still, I know I will howl with pain if This Wild, Wild Country goes to print and I open it in a book shop and find a typo.
Ah, well., we can always fix things for the paperback.
I just wanted to share a bit of interesting research for This Wild, Wild Country. Whenever I do historical research for a book, I save some images that struck a certain note within me. They can be about characters or historic detail, but sometimes it’s more vague things, like tone or mood, that draw me to them.
Here are two women from the 1960s:
Isn’t it incredible that both of these women lived in the same country, the same state, the same year? They couldn’t be any different.
And yet, they have things in common, too. Both wear their best. They use jewellery and hairstyles to express their personality. There’s a sense of pride and confidence in both images. Sure, you could say that our neatly made-up cat-eye glass lady is performing to social expectations. But I think her smile is genuine, her pride sincere.
Now, get both of them around the kitchen table for a chat about the state of the world. What will they agree on? What will they fight over? What are their immovable convictions, and what compromises are they willing to make?
I just got a bunch of final edits back for This Wild, Wild Country.
This is maybe the most exciting phase of book publishing. The book is so close to being finished. You can almost see it on the shelves already. It’s also starting to become the novel I’ve always wanted it to be. Does that sound weird? Maybe?
While I hate edits – after all, how can my perfect book baby have any flaws? – I also love them. There’s a saying that good books aren’t being written, they are being edited, and I 100% subscribe to that philosophy.
The thing is, writing a novel is a journey without a map. You know you’re going to get “somewhere”, but the “where exactly” is always a question. Sometimes, you have grand ideas that don’t work out. Sometimes, a sub-plot that sounded great in your mind is silly on paper. At other times, a fresh mystery emerges from the pages. But does it have a solution?
Editors are absolutely essential in teasing out the brilliant bits from the word jungle and helping you, the author, look square in the face of the bad ones. They also give you something else that’s crucial to writing success = a deadline!
This Wild, Wild Country is coming out in August and is already available for pre-order at Waterstones and Amazon. And I am procrastinating. Back to the edits!
Terrific news from my publisher last week. The cover design for This Wild, Wild Country is in the works.
I’m not going to give too much away just yet. But I can talk a little bit about the cover design for The Long, Long Afternoon. I get asked a lot about the cover. Who created it? Did you get a say in it? How is a book cover decided?
Getting the cover right is crucial, both for the author and the publisher. The author wants a representation of their vision for the book. Once the cover is revealed, the book finally becomes real.
The publisher, of course, has another motive: sales. A cover needs to pop, it needs to stand out from the crowd of books on a book shelf. It needs to appeal – but not necessarily to everyone. A good book cover entices the kinds of readers who will love the book, not all readers everywhere.
Author and publisher will work together on a design that both are happy with. While the publisher has the final say (after all, they’ve got the publishing rights), they won’t want an author to be upset about the cover. It is normal for covers to go through several versions – even the text placement needs to be carefully thought out.
Above is the first concept proposal for The Long, Long Afternoon’s hardback cover that I got to see. Alot of the elements are already there. The broken plate, the curtains, the flowers. But I was still able to make changes and comments. I ran the cover past my family, and my sister suggested adding the stain on the cupboard that could be food… or blood!
The final cover really stands out from other crime novels. It is bright, sunny and charming… but the broken items, the burnt turkey and the knife prominently sticking from the chopping board give it an air of unease. The kitchen looks lived in, but abandoned. The food has been lovingly prepared, then left to rot. The geraniums are peering in, ready drop their blood-red petals all over the scrubbed sink.
I’ll tell you a secret. Can you see the shadow of a man in the light streaming onto the floor? He’s hard to spot, but he’s there…
Today, few people have heard of the Altamont Free Concert, which took place on 6 December 1969. It was supposed to be the “Woodstock of the West” – a gathering of Hippies, drop-outs and music lovers from California and beyond.
Instead, it turned into a bleak, violent and deadly event, which was later dubbed the end of the Hippie era. Meredith Hunter, a young festival attendee, was killed by several Hell’s Angels, who had been hired to provide security during the event. There were reports of rapes and other violent episodes.
The Altamont Free Concert plays a minor role in my new novel, This Wild, Wild Country. It is the reason my band of Hippies abandons California and heads towards New Mexico, where they hope to rebound from the experience and renew their ideals.
The US Library of Congress has just released some new footage from the festival, showing 60s rock legends such as the Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana and Grace Slick. The footage does not throw any new lights on the events of that night, but it shows the stark contrasts that defined the – and perhaps contributed to – the slow decline of the Hippie movement.
The era created some incredible talent and revolutionised so many aspects of society, but it was also marred by chaos, conflict and fragmentation. The Hippies threw the rulebook out of the window. But then, where do you go from there?
I’ve just submitted the third draft of This Wild, Wild Country to the fabulous folks at Manilla Press. I can’t say much about it yet, but my second novel will be set in New Mexico in 1970 and feature a murder in a Hippie Commune.
It’s been tough writing the Hippies. They are so easy to ridicule, yet they really tried to do something different. I wanted to take them seriously for what they were aiming to achieve, rather than mocking their style and slang. Hope I’ve succeeded.
Hippie slang sounds cliched to us now, but it was totally real, man. Just check out this rad advert for bongo drums. Far out!