Thursday, October 01, 2009
Publication day for Too Many Magpies
Today is official publication day. It's an understatement to say I'm chuffed. These things are always a little fuzzed nowadays - advance copies have been available on the Salt website since it came back from the printer nearly a fortnight ago, and our lovely Didsbury bookshop, Morten's, immediately stocked it to sell at our Didsbury Arts Festival reading last Friday. So it's kind of 'out there' already, but there is of course something special about official publication day. Maybe I'll have a little glass of champagne tonight, even if it will be on my own, since John decided to stop drinking four days ago, and I wouldn't like to spoil his resolution!
It's been an amazing process, getting this book published - so quick, and seamless, even taking into account the nail-biting period in late May, I think it was, when it looked as though Salt would have to fold and the novel wouldn't go ahead after all. It was only late last November that I wrote to Jen and asked her if she'd like to look at it, and by Christmas she had said she would like to publish it (the best Christmas present I've ever had), and in the autumn. I never really got upset about the scare in the summer - guess I'm too used to the knocks of the writer's life by now, and have learnt to accept such things as the norm and to see the successes as wonderful miracles. Also somehow I so believed in Jen and Chris's ingenuity and commitment that an opposite part of me didn't think Salt could really fail - and of course there was so much immediate support for the Just One Book campaign, and I made myself too busy with that to allow myself to think negatively.
As soon as Salt had drawn back from the brink Jen set to typesetting TMM. It's beautifully typeset and I'm so grateful to her - most especially as the stress of the scare had left her feeling unwell at the time. The cover just happened, out of the blue - almost literally out of the blue. I had been taking photos of magpies myself, just in case they were needed, to have one ready the moment the subject of the cover was broached, but quite frankly, they weren't much cop. Magpies are really quite hard to photograph: being pied they don't show up against any kind of cluttered background. They kept settling in the leafy tree outside my workroom window, but it was hopeless - though interesting: when I blew up one photo a little goldfinch was revealed sitting companionably beside the magpie, undetectable before then. Then one evening walking home I saw magpies perched very high up in the tree in reading-group Trevor's garden - an ash, still not properly in leaf in June, so the birds were silhouetted against the sky (and luckily I had my camera on me). That sky was a bright cloudless blue, though, and I sent the photo over to Jen and Chris with great doubts: it was far too peaceful and complacent, none of the haunting atmosphere we needed for the novel. But Chris took one look at it, and knew he could do something haunting with it, and the amazing spookily distressed design on the cover of the book is the result.
And now, all in ten months, here is the book - complete, concrete, a thing existing in its own right, separate from us who worked on it, and from me out of whose head it came in the first place, and ready, I hope, to become something else, whatever is made of it in the minds of others...