Well, I must confess to a couple of shitty days, work-wise.
First up, I noticed that some joker — no, I won’t provide the effing link — has placed Déjà Vu in his top five worst books of 2005. At that point, I wasn’t having a bad day. It was just middlin’. Next, I get one of those standard ‘Sorry, try again,’ emails from MacMillan New Writing; I’d sent them my comedy novel ‘Proper Job’, which an agent recently wrote was ‘fresh, lean, original and inventive’ (though, to be fair, that same agent did go on to say that humour is virtually impossible to sell, and I should give up immediately). By then, I would describe my mood as ‘mildly piqued’. Gumblings: Hah! What do they know? I’ll show ‘em. Etc.
Then, to round off the day, I get a call from the agent who is currently considering Déjà Vu. You might remember from a previous post that Scott Pack, chief buyer for Waterstone’s, saw this blog and asked for a copy of my book. He read it and enjoyed it. Amongst other things, he said, ‘the thriller element would hold its own with most of the books we sell in quantity…the characterisation was very strong…the ending left me impressed as I put the book down’. Scott then contacted some literary agents, one of whom contacted me. We chatted on the phone and I sent him a copy of Déjà Vu.
So away. The agent called me back yesterday with the ‘thanks but no thanks’ speech. Very polite, and refreshingly honest. He got half way through the book and decided that he would not be able to champion it at meetings.
Arf. Mood meter drops somewhat.
I’m appropriately jaundiced about this industry. I mean, it’s getting on for eleven years since I sold my first short story as a teenager, and in that time I’ve written four-and-a-half novels. I’ve read a number of good books and a number of crap ones. I’m aware that publishing is a lottery, and I’m aware that a writer is, essentially, a foolish person who works — often for years — in the face of long odds. The writer doesn’t expect the reward of fame, or fortune. Like a carpenter or any other manual worker, he only wants people to buy his stuff so he can afford food while he’s making the next thing.
Me: “Can I interest you in this lovely mahogany number? I made it myself. Took me five years, and the sideboard-critics love it.”
Customer: “No, thanks. We just bought a sideboard from Ikea.”
Me: “Why? They’re flat-packed. They’re mass-produced and lack heart. Look, I’ve carved little mice into the legs. They’re practically scampering. Here, micey -”
Customer: “But our sideboard has a vaguely sexual Swedish name. It’s called Smegsmog. And everyone’s talking about it. The Stockwells at number five just bought one, for Christ’s sake.”
Me: “But what about the sideboards of tomorrow? What if they only came from Ikea?”
Customer: “Good-bye. You might shift more units if you served meatballs.”
Anyway, reasons to be cheerful: (1) If Déjà Vu attracted one agent, it might attract another; (2) Wonderful girlfriend, who seems to believe in me despite these constant messages replies of ‘not good enough’ from publishers and agents; (3) Good health; (4) Blog on which I can moan.
Progress on ‘Flashback’, sequel to ‘Déjà Vu’:
75,246 / 120,000
Written while listening to Don’t Phunk With My Heart from the album “Dont Phunk With My Heart (UK single version)” by Black Eyed Peas