Please join me in welcoming Katherine McMahon, author of The Crimson Rooms to Debbie's Book Bag today with a wonderful Guest Post about her about her first novel. Berkley NAL is offering us two copies of The Crimson Rooms for giveaway, details at the end of the post.
That first novel...
My first novel is somewhere at the bottom of a box in the loft upstairs, painstakingly typed on a manual machine, every mistake visible, rather battered as it was sent back and forth to publishers a few times before being set aside. Inevitably, it was a novel about first love. As a student I worked one summer in a strange old house at the edge of a town called Whitby by the sea in the north of England (it's the town associated with Dracula). My job was to care for children who were sent there by their parents who wanted a bit of peace and quiet during the holidays. We ran courses on theatre and guitar (my job - I could teach drama but my ability on the guitar was rudimentary), outdoor pursuits, canoeing and orienteering. All the tutors were young, so inevitably there were many broken hearts. By the end of a few weeks the object of my affections had been sacked for breaking into the house late at night after lights out, and I was left trekking about the countryside with a string of children and a broken heart. I've no doubt that all that emotion went into the book, and I equally have no doubt that it was and remains unpublishable.
There were a few more abortive attempts before finally I had a novel accepted. I tried a children's book, and another book written from the heart called Holding the Baby about the shock of new motherhood, but a celebrity got there first. And then came a breakthrough. I found material which has been the source of all my writing since: a little nugget about an extraordinary woman - or in this case, a pair of cousins, who claimed to have photographed fairies (later known as the Cottingley Fairies - you can look them up on the internet). These two girls even convinced Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame, although he was ripe for such trickery as he was a Theosophist and believed in spirits. What intrigued me was the temerity of the two Edwardian girls, who refused to admit the photo's were fakes right up until the 1960's. Also the time was very evocative - just before the First World War. So I wrote a novel about two cousins, one a sophisticate named Sophia, the other a country bumpkin who has a relationship with the spirit world in the woods. I wrote it for children and was invited to have coffee with a prestigious editor of a children's publisher called Walker Books. She told me that she liked my writing but it wasn't for children. Children didn't want to read about fairies. What I must do was rewrite the novel as an adult book.
So I tried again, and this time sent a letter and a few chapters to a literary agency - arrogantly picked out of The Writer's Yearbook because of the quality of the authors it represented. It was a huge firm engaged both with literature and theatre and was called Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, and when I had heard nothing for a few months I plucked up courage and rang the office. I was put through to an agent called Mark Lucas. He said: 'Ah, I was going to call you. I liked your letter very much... not so keen on the chapter.' He has been my agent ever since, and he found my first publisher. When he rang up to tell me A Way Through the Woods had been accepted I think my head hit the ceiling. I was baking a flan and had two small girls. My mother was there and she said: 'Now don't get too excited.' Don't get too excited? But a door, kept shut for so long, had swung open; I was launched.
It's been a long and arduous road, but that's writing. Every novel is a huge mountain - if it wasn't, it wouldn't be worth tackling. But The Crimson Rooms felt like coming home. I was back in the territory of my first published novel. I felt the same, haunting tug of a generation bereaved and brutalized by war. But it is a much more sophisticated book than A Way Through the Woods, and so it should be, altogether wittier, pacier and multi-layered. Because writing is a process and a craft, and that's why I keep doing it.
Berkley NAL has offered two readers from Debbie's Book Bag the opportunity to win a copy of The Crimson Rooms by Katherine McMahon. The publisher will be sending these books out directly.
~You must be a GFC follower to participate in the giveaway.
~The giveaway is for US addresses only.
~The deadline to enter this giveaway will be Midnight EST, January 21st.
1. Please leave a comment about the guest post for the author in appreciation for being with us.
2. Fill out this FORM to be enter:
Extra Entries: You will be asked about these on the form.
+5 for following me on Twitter (sidebar)
+5 for being an old follower
+3 for being a new follower
+5 for putting the giveaway on your sidebar
+5 for entering any other giveaway on my sidebar
+10 for putting my button on your sidebar
+10 for subscribing by e-mail
+25 for getting the word out via, blog post, twitter, facebook etc.
+50 for joining the 2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge (sidebar)