Ooh la la! Catherine McNamara is one of WFW’s international author friends and this post comes to you directly from a very hip cafe in Paris.
Cat was with us when her book launched in April 2012, and wanted to share what’s she has been through since then, and where she’s headed.
Please welcome Catherine McNamara back to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Agreeing With Virginia Woolf
This child had taken several years to produce, had been rejected and revised and resubmitted, had required endless revisions, buckets of doubt, loads of hope. I had found the publisher of my dreams, signed a contract, worked for months with a finicky editor, approved a sassy cover and organised a smashing and nerve-wracking book launch in London.
The first question many people ask is ‘How many copies have you sold?’ Of course. An obvious question, polite enough. Especially when your sex romp set in glamorous Italy comes out the same year as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
What to say? What to reply when your book has hit the shelves and you see everybody reading a bestseller that is not quite your own?
I asked a woman writer whose first two story collections were published quietly with an independent press, and whose first novel was recently a top newspaper choice in the UK. She said: ‘Catherine, don’t tie yourself in knots over sales.’ Hmmm.
She said she did miles of readings, book signings, as many events as she could cram in. She said it was hard but rewarding work, getting to know her readers, learning how to handle her public. Learning to call herself a writer.
She also said something VERY valuable for me: ‘Get working on your next project. Write. Do what you do best.’
And these are the words I often repeat to myself. Over the past six months I have blogged weekly, flogged my books in Italian bookshops, spoken to refined readers who asked awkward questions. I’ve proposed myself for festivals and been interviewed on a stage with a microphone and a jug of water. I’ve been interviewed by phone from Australia (in Italian) in my pyjamas. I’ve been handed a mike in a piazza in Matera, southern Italia, thankfully fortified by a glass of strong red. I’ve been stopped in the street (small Cornish town) and had to think of a gazillion nice things to write inside book jackets. I’ve dropped my bookmarks in airports, fashion trade fairs, buses and bookshops. I’ve done guest posts, entered competitions, done giveaways.
Endless, right? In fact it’s been draining, rewarding, scary and I still don’t have millions in the bank. Sometimes I worry I spend too much time on promotion. Sometimes I worry I haven’t pushed enough. Sometimes I worry I’ll never write another pure and focused word.
Sometimes I think I’ve created a monster!
That’s when I think back to my writer mentor’s words. ‘Don’t think about sales. Get back to writing. Write.’
And I have. I was lucky enough to have a good bank of literary short stories to pull together and submit before my first book even came out. I was lucky enough to find a publisher who is letting me change genre – from women’s romantic comedy to literary stories set mostly in Africa.
Lucky. Unbelievable. A second book. Hardly a moment to fret or get depressed.
And now it begins again. A year after my first novel came out, I’ll be publishing a second book in the UK. More revisions. More cover angst. More begging for significant reviews. Argh!
It feels like I am sending yet another child into traffic.
Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney and moved to Paris to study French, and ended up in Ghana running a bar. She is the author of ‘The Divorced Lady’s Companion to Living in Italy’ (to be released in April 2012 by Indigo Dreams Publishing UK) and wrote the children’s book ‘Nii Kwei’s Day’. Her story collection ‘Pelt and Other Stories’ will be published in 2013. After many years in West Africa Catherine now lives in northern Italy where she complains about the government, translates for a WWI Eco-museum and skis fanatically. She has great collections of African sculpture and Italian heels.