The Not So Rave Rejection.

Last year, my novel, The Curiosity Cabinet, was published by Polygon. It had been shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize, had been praised by respected poet John Burnside, (as well as Lorraine Kelly, who loved it!) and seemed to be selling well. (It has since sold out, which explains why it's hard to get on Amazon.) While I was in the middle of writing the final draft of God's Islanders for a different imprint of the same publisher, I also finished a new novel called Darragh Martin. It had gone through several drafts, and my agent liked it. She sent it out to a number of publishers, including the publishers of The Curiosity Cabinet. The reception was, not to put too fine a point on it, lukewarm. (This blog is nothing if not honest!)
At the time, I was a bit peeved, because I had enjoyed writing it. It was an unashamed homage to Wuthering Heights, but with a Scottish setting. I hoped that it was a well written story of neediness and obsessive love and I fancied that it might have a commercial edge. But some of the letters of rejection, relayed to me by my agent, were very helpful. There was, so they pointed out, a gaping chasm at the heart of the novel. The way in which the story was narrated was problematic. And one of the characters bored me, so it didn't surprise me that she bored the readers. But the real fault lay with the main character, Ceit Galbreath. (And she was the main character, not the Darragh Martin of the title) who was a vividly drawn girl to begin with, but who petered out into a rather pathetic creature by the end.
After an initially defensive reaction, I reread the letters and saw that they were right. While I was working on God's Islanders, Darragh was still fermenting away, and I realised that, come hell or high water, I had to do something about it. This was neither practical nor sensible, since I have a couple of completely new projects in waiting. One is a highly commercial idea for a new novel, which is all about solving a Scottish historical mystery in the present day. I have even started writing it. The other is for an equally commercial non fiction book, which seems to tap precisely into an aspect of the current zeitgeist. My lovely agent suggested mildly that I would do better to forge on with these. And she is right. But - as so many writers will know - there is a difference between shelving a project because you have gone as far as you can go with it, and realising that you have short changed a character whom you have grown to love. Which may explain why I spent most of November and December rewriting what had once been Darragh Martin as a very different (and I suspect infinitely better) novel called Corncrake.
But can we do anything with it now that it is finished? Well, there's the rub. I suspect not. Because it has been turned down, it can't be resubmitted. Never mind that it is now quite a different book. But this explains why I am going to subject you to the odd extract on Wordarts. If you think that you might like to read more, will you do me a favour and let my current publisher (Polygon/Birlinn) know all about it!

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