April 1st 2014 was a Tuesday, and the day my debut novel was published in North America. I remember it so clearly. The excitement, the disbelief that it had finally happened, the anxiety (mostly, the anxiety), the mess of my house. Three years and four months on, I’m experiencing the same emotions about my fourth novel, The Cottingley Secret. I’m just as excited, just as surprised it ever got written, just as nervous about reader reaction, and my house is just as untidy as I ride out the wave of publication fever. But surely by book four I should be calmer. More confident. No?
I’m often asked if it gets easier with each book, and I can tell you it doesn’t. Not really. Of course, what does become easier is knowing what to expect, and writing to a confirmed contract. The guarantee of publication certainly makes life a lot less stressful than the uncertainty of submitting a manuscript. But in many ways, each book I write is my debut. Each one takes the same amount of dedication and self-belief to write. Each one is a struggle and a joy. Each one leaves my hands full of just as much passion and hope as the last.
For me, writing was never about the one book they say we all have within us. It was always about building a new career, becoming an author with a backlist, telling those forgotten stories from history which I am fascinated by and passionate about. But how do you keep showing up and getting the words down book after book, year after year? How do you find the same enthusiasm fourth time around as first time around? HOW?!
1. Practical things first. If writing is your job, it’s your job to write. You commit to the 9-5, or whatever fraction of the working day is yours. If you don’t write a book, you don’t earn a salary. If I took ten years to write a book, my children would be extremely hungry – fact. If writing isn’t your full-time or only job, you grab whatever hours you can and protect them fiercely. Game of Thrones might well be about William and Kate for all I know.
2. Most writers are at least a year ahead, so what looks like a book being written every year when publication date comes around is probably a book being written every 18 months to two years.
3. Write quickly, and type quickly. Every little helps.
4. If a book is working, it’s working. A book isn’t necessarily better because it took eight years to drip out of someone’s bleeding fingertips. John Boyne wrote the entire first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in two and a half days. I rest my case.
5. Books produced within an annual publishing cycle are not ‘churned out’ – ugh, how I loathe that phrase. They are still nurtured and coaxed, refined and finessed. They are written with passion and care and energy and enthusiasm. See points 4) and 2) above.
6. If you have lots of ideas that you’re excited to work on, you want to get cracking. And, let’s be honest, the final stages of any book are a slog. What better than to wave it off and start again. Blank page. Potential. Excitement.
7. It isn’t about having a magic formula, or Scribner, or a Mac Book something or other. Writing is only ever about two things: passion and hard work. If you want to write the book, write the book. Nobody is going to write it for you.
9. Hard work.
10. Passion and hard work.
There are plenty of unknowns in the publishing industry, but what I do know is that I am the only one who can write a Hazel Gaynor book. To do that for a fourth time is both a privilege and a pleasure, and I can’t wait to continue writing the fifth. Yes. It’s already well underway.
The Cottingley Secret re-imagines the events of the famous Cottingley fairies hoax of a century ago. It is available now in North America, and will be published in Ireland (and the UK in ebook) on 7th September.
(c) Hazel Gaynor
About The Cottingley Secret:
1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
The image here is the Irish/UK edition of The Cottingley Secret. The image in the article above is the front cover of the U.S. edition, out now.
Pre-order your copy online here.