B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
I guess all authors wish they had written ‘that’ novel – the one that has made Oscar status Blockbuster movie legend. The novel that hits number one in the bestseller charts and stays there … and stays there… and stays there… Or do we?
Yes, of course we all want to do well, the basic facts of paying off the mortgage or being able to afford to get the car fixed is a prime motive – but the reality is, out of the thousands upon thousands of books published worldwide every year very few of them reach the heady height of Literary Stardom.
Do I wish I’d written Gone With The Wind, or Fifty Shades of Grey or Harry Potter? To be honest? No, not really.
What I do wish is that I had possessed the knowledge and experience I have now twenty-plus years ago.
My first novel, part one of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was The Kingmaking. Writing it, I probably made all the mistakes an author is not meant to make: tell not show, too many adjectives and adverbs, point-of-view (head-hopping) changes… but were these issues that often get slammed in Amazon’s Comments sections nowadays so important back in 1993? I don’t think they were, and besides, William Heinemann, an imprint of Random House snapped the trilogy up. As did St Martin’s Press in the USA. Mind you St Martin’s didn’t do much of a good job with the books, and they eventually fell by the wayside – no marketing meant no sales. The same, unfortunately applied to Heinemann.
This was the 1990s. There was no social media, no internet even (well maybe a very embryonic World Wide Web.) Imagine! No Twitter, Facebook or blogging! Not surprisingly the books didn’t sell (even though Heinemann missed a golden opportunity – I was even on TV talking about The Kingmaking – and several of the very top radio shows. Given the right marketing I could have been B.I.G.…
Cut a long story short, Heinemann eventually dropped me. Was this because I’m not that good a writer perhaps? Was it because my (ex) agent did about as little for me as did Heinemann? Maybe there were several reasons – a down-turn in the popularity of Historical Fiction being one of them. I had faith in my Trilogy though (I’d spent ten years writing it, after all!) So I took the huge step of Going Indie. This was 2006/7 – when Self-Publish was still frowned upon and being described as Vanity Publishing. The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was not vanity – it had been Mainstream Published (so take that all you doubters who say ‘If its good enough to be published it would be mainstream!”) My priority was to keep my books in print. The reason they hadn’t sold was because Heinemann had failed to do this: who is going to buy Book One and Book Three of a trilogy if Book Two is not in print, and there’s no prospect of it being reprinted?
So what is my wish for The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King?
Well, three really.
- I wish I knew whether it would be a smart move to completely re-edit and re-write it –editing out those adjectives and adverbs and picking up any POV changes. But is it wise to alter something that has been in print for twenty years? Is there any point? Surely it is better to look forward, not back?
- I wish I knew then what I know now about the importance of marketing.
- I wish more people would read and enjoy the Trilogy – no, not because I want to make money from sales, not because I want to reach a bestseller list but because I want to share the hard work, the tears, the joy, the sheer determination I put into producing those books. I want to share the characters and the world I created with readers who have not, yet, discovered my story of King Arthur. It breaks my heart that given the right backing my characters, my story, could have been ‘Up There’ with the greats. Or am I kidding myself?
There is no magic, no Merlin, no Lancelot even in my Trilogy. Instead there is
Who became the Man
Who became the King
Who became the Legend.
And I must have done something right along the way with my version of what might have really happened in fifth century Britain because the US publisher Sourcebooks grabbed the trilogy, and now a German publisher, Sadwolf Verlag is translating the books into German.
There is one final ‘I Wish’ for the Trilogy which I am intensely proud of.
I wish my Dad had not passed away three months before I was first accepted for publication. I might be able to do something about the other wishes, but Dad was not able to share the euphoria of me finally making it as a proper author. And that is a regret that, sadly I can do nothing about.
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