As I wave a fond farewell to my status of ‘debut author’ and send my second novel A Memory of Violets out into the world, my emotional state is an alarming cocktail of toe-curling nerves and cartwheel-inducing excitement. The novel I wrote in 2012 (and which I’d scribbled ideas and notes for years before that) is finally FINALLY published! I’d forgotten what a whirlwind publication time is. I’m liable to burst into tears at any moment. I have no clue what’s going on in the real world. Nobody in the family has anything clean to wear. Dinner is ‘something and waffles’. Even the cat is bemused.
I now know why the Sex Pistols only wrote one album, because it is, quite frankly, terrifying to go back out there and do it all again. I wake up in the middle of the night: what if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if readers who loved my first novel don’t fall in love with this one? What if, what if, what if. My solution to most of these questions is to pour the gin, but for anyone else experiencing Difficult Second Novel Syndrome, here are some observations:
1) Second novels come with expectation. Yes, debuts also come with expectation, but people are generally more forgiving (she wrote a book, bless) and are surprised if the book is actually any good. And if debuts are successful, people naturally expect your second novel to be even better. This makes you feel nauseous.
2) Second novels come without the cotton wool and pampering of debuts. Much like a second pregnancy, people soon forget you’re going through the exact same aches, pains, insecurities and fears. They think you have it all figured out, because you’ve done it all before. No casseroles arrive at the door. No self-indulgent mewling is tolerated. Your husband might very well forget entirely that you have a new book it. You must simply get on with it.
3) Second novels come with a contractual agreement. With deadlines. With a publication date. You long for those glorious days of commitment-free writing as you look at your schedule and panic.
4) Second novels come with experience. You know what’s coming. You know that you have to mention the title of your novel several times in a ten minute radio interview. You know that friends and family will be incredibly kind and supportive. You also know that everyone won’t gush with praise and that some people will even be downright nasty. This makes you feel nauseous.
5) Second novels have to be juggled with the first. You cannot indulge second novels with your undivided attention as you did with your debut. You might even mix up the names of your characters when you are talking about the books.
6) Second novels are published just as you are seriously starting to worry about meeting the deadline for your third. This is known as Sod’s Law.
7) Second novels must (naturally) improve on the first. You must have learned something in the process of writing, editing and publicising your debut, and you must prove this with your second. This makes you feel nauseous.
8) Second novels consolidate your brand. They show your readers who you really are – the style of your writing, your voice, your ‘thang’. Get it wrong, and people may just quietly walk away and pick up the new Robert Galbraith instead. Get it right, and you might very well have loyal readers for a very long time to come.
9) Second novels come with the potential for lovely ‘Praise for …’ quotes from your previous novel and a ‘from bestselling author’ splash on the cover. This is a very wonderful thing.
10) But for all the nerves and anxiety, second novels are ultimately brimming with opportunity. They are your chance to show the world you have more than one book in you – that this wasn’t a fad or a lucky break, but a career you are very very serious about. And for this Second Time Novelist, that is most definitely cause for celebration.
(c) Hazel Geynor
About A Memory of Violets (Hazel’s SECOND novel 😉
The author of the USA Today and New York Times bestselling novel The Girl Who Came Home has once again created an unforgettable historical novel. Step into the world of Victorian London, where the wealth and poverty exist side by side. This is the story of two long-lost sisters, whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.
In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
A Memory of Violets is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here.