As his second YA novel All Sorts of Possible is published (reviewed here), author Rupert Wallis stops off at Shiny New Books on his blog tour to tell us about his experience including the publishing process, doing PR and being shortlisted for the Branford Boase prize amongst other things.
Welcome to Shiny New Books. Over to you, Rupert…
I have always wanted to be a writer. Apparently. My cousin says she remembers me telling her about this ambition aged five. And throughout my life I have fulfilled this goal alongside working, and doing everything else that soaks up the days, the hours and the minutes of daily living. I have had to write, because, let’s be honest, if you don’t write then you’re not a writer, end of story. But until fairly recently all my writing was pretty much for myself or for reading groups like the one in Cornwall I joined (@TelltalesCwll) or for my long suffering friends who would occasionally receive snippets to read and comment on. It was a fairly private process, with the goal of being published, of being actually read, just a distant dream. So when I did have my first novel published last year it was a defining experience, it required a recalibration about certain things; for example, there was a need for a different sort of reckoning about who I was and what I was doing now that I was writing ‘professionally’ under contract with a book deal.
The transition from wannabe author to published novelist shouldn’t be underplayed. I have read a lot of stories about novelists’ routes to publication and it often seems to be the case that although the process of finding an agent can take a lot of time, the actual journey from then on, once that hurdle is cleared, speeds up; this was certainly the case for me. It means writers can find themselves with book deals (and with all the expectations of publishers associated with this) very quickly once the agents get moving on a manuscript. Perhaps more time should be spent considering what effect this has on people who are used to spending hours on their own with imaginary characters and made up worlds. How do they feel when the stone they have been writing under is suddenly lifted up and they are exposed to the real world?
For me it’s been an interesting and enlightening experience. So, what have the pros and the cons been so far in my first year as published author? Well, the former undoubtedly outweighs the latter by a long way and here are some of the reasons why: I have felt validated, reassured that I’m doing something of value, and that I matter. I have met other people far more interesting than me and learnt from them; writers like Sally Gardner (@TheSallyGardner) with whom I did a Q & A at the Edinburgh Literary Festival. I have written blog pieces for newspapers like The Guardian, allowing me a voice beyond the pages of my book. I have lectured to students at Falmouth University (@FalmouthUni) on my experiences and the lessons I have learnt about writing. I have been lucky enough to be shortlisted for some wonderful awards like the Andersen Prize in Italy (@andersentwitt) and the Leeds Book Award (@LeedsSLS) and the Branford Boase Award (@BranfordBoase) in the UK. But most of all, and the thing that has surprised me the most, is that I have found out things I never knew about my first book ‘The Dark Inside’. Through all the comments and reviews I have received, readers have given me their insights and reactions and viewpoints, personal responses I could never have conceived of when writing the novel. Although I wrote the story for myself (who knew I would ever get a publishing deal) it has been enlightening to find out what impact my imagination has had on other people, whether positive, negative or neutral. At one level I can appreciate that it completes the process of being a published author, namely the book comes out and then readers react to it. There is energy in that for everyone involved.
So what have some of the cons been of being published? Well, writing for me is a personal journey – there are themes I like to explore which highlight the type of person I am – and therefore it seems that a published story betrays an inner ‘me’ to the reader, which, initially, I found quite intimidating. Another con is that your writing time becomes more precious because there are other things to do, especially around the time of publication. There is also the problem of writing that ‘difficult’ second book. A further con is that bad reviews hurt. Also, people ask you questions about your book that are always difficult to answer like ‘why did you write it?’ and ‘where did the idea for it come from?’
But I know that I’m extremely lucky to have been given the chance to have a book published so any perceived con or downside is nullified by overwhelming happiness and gratitude for what has happened.
So, what have I learned from my first year as a published author? What advice can I give to other writers who might be about to put their first foot on the publishing ladder? Well here are some observations that I thought might be useful….
- Like film-making, publishing is collaborative. You write the story but then lots of other people come on board such as editors (and there are different types such as structural, copy and proof editors), cover designers, sales people, marketing and PR people, and then finally booksellers and librarians who are the ones who put your book in the hands of readers.
- It is necessary to be proactive in the sale of your work by being active on social media, speaking in public and engaging with reviewers and most importantly of all, readers.
- You have to work out what being a published author means for you and how to handle it.
- You have to know why you wrote your book because people will always want to know.
- You need to figure out your role beyond just writing books; i.e. how involved do you want to be in the extra-curricular activities associated with being a published author?
- It is important to define what success as a published author means for you.
- That writing the second book can be difficult.
- That you won’t really ever know if translations are faithful to your work.
- You need to learn that rejection is and always will be part and parcel of being a writer because nobody likes everything. And you need to develop a way of dealing with that.
Happy writing to all!
Read Annabel’s review of All Sorts of Possible in our fiction section – click here.
Rupert Wallis, All Sorts of Possible (Simon & Schuster: UK, 2015) 9891461143663, , 384 pp., hardback.