My latest novel, a speculative look at the early career of Fra Filippo Lippi, is out now!
Meanwhile, although my last post – almost seven months ago – was about writer’s block, it was obviously therapeutic to write as I’ve been completely immersed in my new novel ever since. It’s finished and now I’m emerging, blinking like a bat in daylight, from my writing cave.
Nice and symmetrical: one book finished, another one published in the space of two days. The experience, though, is decidedly asymmetric. A book is – ought to be, anyway – a delivery mechanism for the writer’s energies. Emotional, mental, even physical, all these energies are poured into the words over the course of months, perhaps years. In the case of The Painter of Souls, I’m reminded slightly of the poor Philae Spacecraft that landed on Comet 67/P last November, only to end up in the shade where it promptly ran out of batteries.
The Painter of Souls was a rare delight to work on. I got to immerse myself in the art of Filippo Lippi and spend whole days wandering around Florence in my imagination. So I waited for publication last Thursday with all the fixation and anxiety of a NASA Mission Control boffin, the one chewing the end off his tie. The Chef had to hold my hand as I fretted (actually she was at work most of the time but luckily for me, the Chef does good long-distance hand-holding). And then… No books. A lovely bottle of champagne arrived from the publishers – “Open it!” said the Chef. “But what are we celebrating? There aren’t any books!” I protested. “Well, what did you expect?” – she was right. What did I expect? We opened it. Anyway, Amazon has copies. Say what you will about Amazon – and I’ve said plenty – they know how to sell books. Cheers!
Like poor old Philae, which pops back into life every now and again like an anti-vampire, revived by sunlight, The Painter of Souls has blinked on long enough to garner some lovely reviews. We Love This Book say it will “delight the reader,” Book Stop Corner calls it “An extraordinary journey of passion, art and intrigue,” and TripFiction found it “a good and ultimately gentle read.”
And it’s early days. Copies will appear in the shops and with any luck, people will read and enjoy them. This is my sixth book and I ought to have learned by now: writing a book and having it published are two entirely separate things and, bizarrely, there are almost no points of contact between the two. Finishing a book is a huge release. Publishing one is a bit of an anti-climax. It’s only when people start to read it and share their likes – and dislikes – that the light sputters on again.
There’s obviously a space theme going on here, because it just occurred to me that whenever I finish a book and send it off, I think of Tintin: Explorers On The Moon (I learned to read thanks to Tintin and my children seem to leave a scattering of Tintin books whenever they move from room to room). There’s a scene where Tintin throws himself into the darkness of a lunar cavern. “Into the hands of fate!” he says as he leaps. That’s what I always mutter to myself when I push send on a first draft manuscript. Publication day comes and goes, but The Painter of Souls is now well and truly in the hands of fate. And that’s when things begin to get interesting again.