Gooseberry: November 2014

Week 19: November 7th, 2014

Photograph: November Effigies by John Thomson

Photograph: November Effigies by John Thomson LSE's Digital Library

The final chapter, eh? Sometimes I despaired of ever getting here. The weird thing is, I’m really going to miss posting the chapters each Friday.

This week I sent out the ARCs (advance reviewer copies) to the winners of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers offer, and now the nail-biting starts. The process is a bit like a blind date that can go terribly wrong though, to be fair, LibraryThing does use an algorithm to try to provide a good match between novel and reader. I’ve noticed that it helps if, as an author, you already have a bit of a pedigree. The people bidding on your book have some idea of what they can expect from you.

Believe it or not, two reviews have already been posted. The first was the fastest I’ve ever had! And woohoo! It gave it four stars. It calls Gooseberry “a fast-moving, rollicking and compelling read, conjuring up the atmosphere of Victorian London and its underworld”. Even better, the second review gave it five!

I’m still nervous, however, especially of how fans of my other novels will take to it. So, fingers crossed—at least, whenever I’m not trying to rip away another shred of already non-existent fingernail, that is!

Till next week,

Week 20: November 14th, 2014

Photograph: Street Floods in Lambeth by John Thomson

Photograph: Street Floods in Lambeth by John Thomson LSE's Digital Library

So…Gooseberry launches next week. It’s the culmination of six months of extremely hard work, and yet I’ve given (re-)birth to another character and another novel. So what have I learned along the way?

I’ve learned that I do have other voices in me. When I started this project, I wasn’t sure that I did. I’d only written two novels before this, and both had the same protagonist. I’m really proud of Gooseberry’s voice and the way that I’ve fleshed out his character. He’s an opportunistic, bright fourteen-year-old with a truly sunny disposition and a predilection for helping others.

I’ve learned that I can write quicker than I thought I could. Nothing focuses your mind and prevents you from fussing over tracts of text like a looming deadline. At some points I was writing a thousand words a day—unheard of prior to this. My personal best was 1,700 words. Other days I struggled to make even two hundred words, usually when my subconscious was trying to tell me that I’d “missed a trick” in terms of plot development.

I’ve learned that I really do need to sort out the back story and a general plot outline before I write a single word. Not doing that came back to bite me with a vengeance!

So…would I ever write a novel in this manner again? Yes, but it is a rather risky way to write. Despite my best intentions, I found that two of the chapters were almost unreadable when I came to re-edit Gooseberry for its publication as a completed novel. So, while serialization might suit a project that is already risky in some fashion (writing in a different genre, for example, or in the third person rather than the first that I normally favour), I don’t think I’d subject any of my existing protagonists to it again. It really could have gone horribly wrong. I’m glad for Gooseberry’s sake that it didn’t.

Till next week,

Week 21: November 21st, 2014

Photograph: The Seller of Shell Fish by John Thomson

Photograph: The Seller of Shell Fish by John Thomson LSE's Digital Library

Today’s the day, the day the novel goes on sale. So far I’ve had a fabulous response to Gooseberry from LTER reviewers, who really seem to have taken the little chap into their hearts. It’s had a massive re-edit, which it needed, and now sports UK English spellings and punctuation as a result of one such review from a reader in California.

I knew fairly early on when I was writing Gooseberry that there would be at least one sequel and quite possibly a whole series. Characters like Mr Bruff, George and George, Julius, Bertha, and Mr Crabbit—good Lord, even the detestable Misss-ter Chrisss-topher—deserve the long-term character development that only a series can provide.

So what can you, the reader, expect? I see promotion in the offing for young Gooseberry, while Julius’s spoken English continues to deteriorate nicely under Bertha’s dubious teaching. The Georges’ “reducing” diets begin to take effect (or not), and Mr Crabbit relaxes his policy on receipts. Actually, you can strike that last one. Gooseberry and Julius find themselves adopted by a dog, and a man arrives from Glasgow claiming to be the pair’s father. I would have liked Gooseberry to have taken Julius to a piano recital of Bach—but instead he ends up taking both him and Bertha to the theatre, in this case a revival of the Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi at Sadler’s Wells. The duchess is strangled to death in Act 4, but revives briefly, causing Bosola, the character who witnesses this, to remark, ‘Her eye opes!’ I imagine most readers of Gooseberry will know exactly what Bertha makes of this! I’m aiming to release it on July 1st next year. It’s a tight schedule, but I think I can do it.

In the meantime I’ll leave this blog live, and I promise I’ll let you know straight away if anything interesting happens regarding the book.

So, I really hope to see you again next year. Thanks for coming along for the ride.