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So far, 2012 has been quite an amazing year. In February, I went to New York with Russel D. McLean (noir fiction writer and partner;, to promote the US paperback edition of Between the Sheets. I'll be posting up pics from my reading at Bluestockings Bookshop ( when I eventually get hold of them! In March, I spoke with Dan Bullen (author of the brilliant The Love Lives of the Artists) at the gorgeous Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris ( my main blog picture is taken from that sell-out event. We had an amazing time, hosted by the wonderful Jemma and Sara. Then it was back to the UK, and the UK paperback edition of Between the Sheets in May.

Since then, I've been travelling slightly less and waiting anxiously instead. I'm going to share the responses I get from publishers over the following weeks for both projects I've been working on. The Ghost Continent was awarded a £10,000 Scottish Arts Council grant in 2008, and I finally managed to finish it this year.  It's about a real-life Scottish childhood friend of Mary Shelley's, called Isabella Baxter Booth, whose husband suffered bouts of madness. It's 1823 and it's a time of revolution in the world of psychiatry - new methods are being tested in the wake of new discoveries. So I've put the two elements together to write about a woman who marries the wrong man, and a man who makes a disastrous career choice - with ghosts and a bit of gothic horror, too.

So far, I've had about 10-15 rejections. A variety of reasons: a) I didn't love it enough; b) I couldn't follow it; c) it's not commercial enough; d) we've got enough historical fiction right now. One editor did love it enough to recommend publication but the sales dept knocked it back. Plenty more to hear back from in the coming weeks.

My non-fiction proposal, Rebel Muses, won an arts council grant from Creative Scotland of £5500 in December 2011, which gave me lots of hope and confidence. It follows on from Between the Sheets in a way, as it is also looking at   relationships between writers. This time though, I'm focusing on a specific period (the early 20th Century), and a specific role, the literary muse. I've taken 12: Vivienne Eliot, Lucia Joyce, Zelda Fitzgerald, Alice B Toklas, Ada Dwyer Russell, Vita Sackville West, Nora Barnacle, Laura Riding, Georgie Yeats, Ottoline Morrell, Genevieve Straus and Violet Hunt, for the book. I'm arguing that they all rebelled against the constraints of the role in some way, and some succeeded in that rebellion, whilst others tragically failed.

So far, there's been early interest (it's been sent to five publishers initially), and one editor loved this enough too, to recommend it for publication. Once again, though, the sales dept knocked it back, citing its lack of commercial appeal. Just the beginning for this one. Lots more still to go.



  1. Hello! Lovely to see your blog. And how close you came to having the novel accepted - all too often the sales dept knock it back. They do like an easy sell nowadays. All very stressful. Keep the faith!

  2. The Ghost Continent sounds wonderful! Sadly, I'm not a publisher. I'm someone who's also experienced the 'Just didn't like it enough', 'would love to buy it but we can't invest in X just now' type of response. I hope somebody sees sense and buys it.

    1. Thanks Lorna! The funny thing is, I thought the Shelleys and ghosts and madness would be super-commercial! I'm hearing more and more of the 'editor says yes, sales say no' from writers, whether your past sales are good or not, which is shift from recent positions, I think.

  3. Yes, it was frustratingly close, Nicola! Especially when an editor was as passionate about it as this one was. I think relationships between publishers and the big sellers, like amazon and waterstones,are particularly tricky right now. If they can't see it selling in great numbers, the sales depts will say no.

  4. Great to read your new blog Lesley. I am sure this blog will be invaluable to all new writers, I for one will be following it avidly. As for getting publishers interested, as Nicola says it is all about sales. Good luck with the new books and hope to see them in print soon.


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