In the Autumn of 2020, I received a phone call from Anna Cellamare of Europe Books. Anna had read my entire manuscript. She liked it. She enthused about various characters and plot points. She really seemed to get it. Anna wanted to present Three Eleven to her managers at an upcoming acquisitions meeting, with my permission. ‘Okay,’ I said.
About a week later, Anna sent me a publishing contract. I froze. I did nothing at all about it, just left it sitting in my inbox until Anna phoned me again. She understood my hesitation and told me to take some time, but not too much time, to think about it.
I read the contract, even the fine print. I sent it to a friend who had recently published a novel and she read it too. I researched the publisher, so did my friend. I sent Anna any questions that came to mind. Her answers were satisfactory.
Everything seemed to be legitimate.
Then I had a nightmare, or perhaps, because I wasn’t asleep when it came to me, it would be more correct to call it a vision. It was vivid. It was unsettling. A crone stealing into a forest carrying a leather-bound book. She stopped at old sycamore and looked warily over one shoulder then the other. Satisfied that no-one had followed her, she wrapped the book in protective cloth and buried it between the roots of the tree.
This waking dream freaked me out. Was it telling me not to publish my book, to bury it instead? Should I heed its warning? I had tried for so long to have my novel published. I had persevered despite many rejections and setbacks, but suddenly I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to publish at all. I looked inside myself for that yearning that desire to publish. I couldn’t find it. It had vanished. All that was left was the memory, the recollection of how I had for so long dreamt of having this novel published and more novels too, novels that I have yet to write.
I doubted the merits of my novel. It had after all been rejected many, many times. And yet, I had once believed in it. I had believed in it enough to keep going on my quest to find an agent or publisher despite those rejections.
Creating the characters, coming up with the story lines, getting it down on paper, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting yet again – that was the fun part. Submitting to agents and publishers – that was hell.
Like job applications, submissions must be personalised and tailored to each agent. It’s not a fun way to spend your weekend, and I found myself resisting it, postponing and procrastinating, but I did continually return to it. I had heard Donal Ryan tell of how he had received fifty rejections before he got published, and that the real number of rejections was probably closer to one hundred, because many agents don’t bother to reply. I hoped I would have success before I reached fifty, but decided to keep that number in mind and reassess the situation if and when I reached the big five oh.
I had sent out about fifty submissions and collected between twenty-five and thirty rejections when, life intervened and threw challenges at me with which I struggled to cope. Lest one more rejection push me over the edge, I decided to pause my publishing quest. I didn’t resume it until the first lockdown.
Rejections began rolling in again soon after, but several of the rejections were extremely encouraging. One agent told me that mine was the best submission she’d seen in several months, but…. There was always a but until I got that call from Europe Books.
My dilemma: let Europe Books publish my novel or bury it under a tree. Publishing seemed a healthier more natural choice. When you create something, be it a cake, a song, a poem or a wood carving, sharing it with the world is better than stashing it in a pit; right?
I signed the contract, sent my novel out into the world. The world might not be too keen on it. Readers might not be able to find it, there are so many other books out there. But they certainly weren’t going to find it if I buried it under a tree.
(c) Margaret Grant
Grab your copy and find out more https://www.europebookstore.com/products/three-eleven-margaret-grant/
About Three Eleven
Japan is a country prepared for earthquakes. Strict guidelines govern new building construction and its citizens are regularly instructed on what to do and how to behave. Nevertheless, nobody was ready for what 2011 had in store for the country. That year, on March the 11th, a powerful earthquake off the north-eastern coast triggered a huge tsunami, resulting in a massive number of casualties and the destruction of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. In the wake of the frightening event, many foreign residents decided to leave the country, fearing the worst was yet to come.
On that day many lives changed forever, including those of friends and book club buddies – Charlotte, Lauren, Fumiko, Katherine and Sinéad. The five friends had planned to meet on the following Wednesday to discuss their book of the month, Middlemarch, but that get-together was not meant to be. They didn’t lose their homes or their loved ones in the disaster, but the seismic event shook them to their core. This is the story of the five women and how they each reshaped their lives in the aftermath of this shattering event.
Margaret is from the South East of Ireland where she currently lives. She lived in Tokyo for eleven years and was there when Japan was rocked by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Her experiences on that day and in the weeks and months that followed formed the inspiration for Three Eleven, her debut novel. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and works in education.