Yesterday, the postman delivered the very first copy of Mr Rosenblum’s List. It’s an actual proper book. In hardback. With my name on. I placed it on the shelf in the sitting-room amongst the proper books by real authors (hoping they wouldn’t pick on him). I feel slightly dazed. I’ve seen proofs and typeset manuscripts and cover roughs and back copy blurb, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing your story bound into an actual book.
Mr Rosenblum's List - Australian Hardback
This the edition that will be sold in Australia and New Zealand…
hmmn... is it too late to change that sentence?
I’ve done a couple of interviews now — one last week with an Australian paper. I feel amazed at how Jack and Sadie’s story has traveled. It is so lovely that people so far away want to read a love story about a short, middle-aged man and his roundish wife…
And, if any of you are in London, I’m doing my very first book event, which will be at Jewish Book Week on March 2nd, at 5.30pm in Bloomsbury. It’s free and un-ticketed and you will be able to get an early copy of Mr R…
Today I went out with Julia, the lovely Hodder sales rep, to meet booksellers in the Dorset area. It was great to meet the people who will actually be selling Mr R. There are just so many people involved in the selling of a book – from the brilliant team at head office, to the traveling sales reps (make me think of old fashioned peddlers with donkey carts piled high with glittering books) as well as the booksellers in the shops.
Jack is on his travels too. I’ve been e-mailing with Professor M, my German translator. Having someone scrutinise your book in minute detail is quite an odd experience. In my alternate life as an academic, I have spent eons reading a poem, researching every line, and as a screenwriter I have interrogated the text I am adapting. It’s a fantastic experience, and one becomes quite obsessed with the source text – it feels at times like squatting in someone else’s brain. However, having that gaze turned upon one’s own work is quite disconcerting.
I’m now getting glimpses of the foreign covers. This is the Dutch one:
Dutch cover for Mr Rosenblum's List
And this is the Spanish:
Mr Rosenblum's List in Spain.
Mr S and I are back in Dorset after a busy week in London. It was all rather fun – I met my charming Dutch editor, Jacqueline, and saw the cover for the Dutch edition of Mr R. The book is being busily translated at the moment, and editors and translators are starting to send through questions about the text. The biggest challenge seems to be the Dorset dialect. There is a motley collection of local folk in Mr R and they speak in broad Dar-set tones.
This was great fun to write: I scoured old dialect dictionaries, read lots of William Barnes and, of course, Thomas Hardy. The speech is written phonetically with dialect words like ‘jitterbug’ (glow worm) and ‘yow’ (ewe) and ‘noggerhead’ (idiot). In old West Country speech, nouns are gendered as they are in German or Anglo-Saxon and are nearly always ‘he’. So, a roof in need of repair is: ‘ee’s in a bit o’ a bad way, isn’t ‘ee?’ I chose to elongate the ‘ee’ when transcribing, as I felt ‘e’ as in ‘e’s in a bit o’ a muddle’ sounds too much like cockney.
All well and good – gave the poor copy editor a bit of headache – but I thought it was all finished. Now, the poor translators are going through exactly the same thing. Jacqueline and her translator are trying different rural Dutch dialects and choosing which sounds best. Professor M who is working on Jack in German, is struggling with the eccentric spelling of the dialect. He emailed to ask what an ‘ersey mistake’ is – (it’s an easy mistake to make…)
It’s a very strange feeling to be taking a week or so off writing (agent Stan has Fred) while knowing that other people are busily working on Mr R. I think they are all in need of some of Curtis’s jitterbug cider.
I love living in Dorset
I have now finished the first draft of Fred. I cried when I reached the end. I took a moment in the summerhouse to be alone and to feel sad that this part was over. Writing can be really hard, it can be frustrating but it also one of the greatest pleasures in life – or in my life anyway.
Writing endings are different to writing beginnings or middles. The story and characters are set up, and the reader has been on a journey for two or three hundred pages and has built up her own vision. By the end, I want to allow my reader to fill in the spaces between the words. I don’t mean leave an ‘open ending’ in terms of story, but allow the reader room to imagine things herself and be able to fill in the blanks. I think it is more emotionally resonant this way.
In case this seems all rather vague, I’m going to turn to my usual guru: Jane Austen, and in this instance the obsequious Mr Collins. In this scene, Mr Collins is taking Elizabeth Bennet round Rosings Park, and describing the scene in front of them:
“Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. He could number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump.”
‘Pride and Prejudice’ chapter 28.
Mr Collins is not allowing any space between the words. He is describing the scene (which they can see anyway as it’s right there in front of them) in such detail that he ruins it. As a writer, I think one of the hardest thing is knowing how and when to evoke places, people and reactions, and when one needs to leave it to the reader’s imagination and trust them to fill the spaces. As Keats (almost) said ‘hear words are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter’.
Me in a stripey hat.
I feel slightly odd, like I’m actually living in two parallel worlds; or, at the very least, jet-lagged and trying to zoom between two time zones. Only rather than London/ Los Angeles, the zones are 2010 and 1941. I disappear to write and vanish into wartime Tyneford, then return to the kitchen for a cup of tea, a chat with Mr S and to make a phone call or two, and I feel very discombobulated. Time-lagged.
When I approach the end of a draft the story takes over and I start to think incessantly about it. I don’t sleep very well and, when I do, I dream of Dorset long ago. Out walking with Mr S, he complains that I’m quiet, but it’s not quiet in my mind, or at leas they’re not quiet, since they are chattering very loudly in my head. Before you start to panic, and think you need to send Mr S or Jocasta or Agent Stan concerned e-mails, let me assure you that this is a hazard of the job. Many writers talk about hearing snatches of conversation between their characters, and that part of getting into a story is learning to listen to them.
When that first draft is finished and set aside for a few weeks to rest and simmer, it will become peaceful again. My noisy characters will be held inside the manuscript, waiting to be read so that they can talk again. For now, I might go out to the summerhouse and hide, but somehow I expect they’ll be waiting for me there, impatient to get on with the story.
counting sheep to fall asleep... (and it's snowy)
It’s so good to be back in Dorset. Within a week I start to pine for green fields. The snow has almost gone here, just a smattering of white across the high ground. I think I timed it very well, carefully avoiding the evil slush.
Emails are flying back and forth as Sceptre (and my mum) try to organise the launch of Mr R and begin to arrange events for the book group tour. (If you want me to visit your book group, click on the link at the top of the page and leave a message – or email me at: mrrosenblum AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk). I’ll be very well behaved and will even bring my own biscuits.
Yet, while all this is going on, I’m hurtling towards the end of Fred. She even has a title. I can’t sleep for Elise and Mr Rivers wandering through my dreams. All I want to do at the moment is write. I have notebooks and files and scraps of paper, all filled with scribbles for the last few chapters and these are slowly making their way into the story. If only they could all stroll off into a sunset as lovely as this one…
Durdle Door sunset
I’ve got used to telling people that my book’s coming out next year. Only now it’s this year. I’m excited and nervous in equal measure. Little snippets are starting to appear, like here:
Where the fab book blogger Simon Savidge picks ‘Mr R’ as one of his books to watch in 2010…
I’m also speaking at my first event – Jewish Book Week on the 2nd of March. So, do come along. It’s my very first Mr R talk, so I might be rather nervous…
It’s quite strange, as we get closer to the release of Mr R, I am busily writing Fred. In fact, I’m hurtling towards the end. I’ve enjoyed writing her so much that part of me really doesn’t want to finish. But, I know it’s alright. It will only be the first draft and I’ll have Mr S’s notes and then agent Stan’s and then Jocasta’s. So, Fred and I will spend a lot more time together yet. But this is a good thing – I really don’t get tired of the stories or the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing Jack and Sadie once again. Only this time, they won’t just be mine, but will belong to other readers too.