Today my sixth book is published by Blackbird Digital Books.
Books 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 each took, on average, about a year to write.
No. 6 has taken ten years from start to finish.
The first draft I started in 2002, with the working title “Mothers All” – a reference to all the mothers who affected my life – my own mother, the nuns at the convents where I was educated, my step-mother, and my first mother-in-law.
When I submitted it to my agent, the lovely Maggie Noach who died so tragically young, she was wildly enthusiastic, and proposed it to my then publishers, Transworld. They rejected it, saying that although it was well-written, engaging, etc. etc., memoirs and autobiographies of unknown people did not sell. (I was “unknown” in their terms, as a relatively new author on their list.)
Maggie was indignant and disappointed, and I put the draft away and moved on to a new title.
Over the years I occasionally dug it out, deleted certain events, inserted others, and each time I read the original manuscript with new eyes I realised how much I didn’t like the tone I had used, which was flippant and sarcastic. I was glad it hadn’t been published.
I kept changing the title. It went from “Mothers All” to “The Black Lamb” to “The Anniversary Clock” to “The Anniversary Clock Stood Still.” And it never felt quite right.
Two years ago I started it again and found that my perception of events and characters had changed considerably since I wrote that first draft. The sarcasm and flippancy didn’t fit. I realised they were masking real pain and regret, and overwhelming nostalgia for life in the glorious country of Kenya, and the little grey Somali-Arab pony who meant so much to me.
Over the last few months I have written late into the night, when I could be alone and cry unseen. I’ve shed more tears than a human body could feasibly produce, and I’ve eaten my way through endless plates of comfort food.
Finally I’m happy with what I have written, satisfied that it is honest and sincere and as good as I can make it.
A huge thank-you to Stephanie at Blackbird Digital Books who has been so supportive and worked so hard in the development and publishing of this memoir. Only she and I know quite how hard it has been. It’s available in Kindle now from all Amazon websites, and paperback later this week.