A Little Help From My Friends
I am always happy to chat about penguins, or about harps. I've been doing that quite a lot during September. BBC radio presenters kindly invited me to their programmes twice (first for Lancashire, then for Devon, Cornwall and Somerset) and, despite my worries that I’d forget how to speak, I did remember words and they mostly came out in a logical order. However, there’s always a problem when this question comes: So, Hazel, can you give me an idea what your books are about? This is where I stumble. My mouth dries up and my sentences become an incomprehensible tangle. How can I possibly, possibly put a whole novel into a few pithy sentences? How can I give a flavour of it without using the voices of my characters? How can I tell you the plot without - well, giving away the plot?
I know I’m not the only writer who struggles with this. It’s the truly awful part of submission letters. It’s hard because your job as a novelist is to go broad and deep; you’ve spent months (or years) broadening and deepening around your topic - so how can you now suddenly go narrow and shallow?
Reviews have shown me that other people are way better at summarising my novels than I am. And the book blurb isn't the only area where I need help. I recently joined Instagram and I’m gobsmacked at the creativity I’ve found on there, including many photos and videos of my own books. I may be able to write the stories but I could never have achieved these artistic feats.
Self-published writers manage virtually everything by themselves, and I'm full of admiration. Reluctant as I am to give up control over things like the title and the cover, I'm also incredibly relieved to have a group of editors, designers, publicists and marketing experts behind my books. Trad publishing really is team work.
My debut novel came out as a paperback in the USA last month. My kind publicists at Berkley sent me this, just one of their clever designs to help with publicity.
Then there is my fabulous agent, Darley Anderson and his team who negotiate deals for me all over the place! Last week the Slovenian edition of Ellie arrived here, and isn't it beautiful?
I somehow don’t think I would have managed that on my own!
With the harping, too, I've been a bit needy recently. I can play the instrument, but that's not the issue. While there are no live performances, I'm experimenting with other ways of getting out there which means (oh no!) technology. I'm lucky to have a husband who is technically minded and produces sensible advice and an array of electrical leads when things go wrong. And, thankfully, I have a friend who knows about Cubase software so there's hope for the penguin song. I've clubbed together with another talented friend, Ursula, and we have plans for it that might just coincide with an important announcement later in October. Watch this space.
I've finally realised I can't control everything. I must sometimes accept a little help from my friends. That’s the way it should be. And it's one of the things that makes my jobs - both of them - so lovely.