Today I am delighted to welcome Su Bristow to the blog talking a little about getting to the point of publication of her beautiful novel Seal Skin. Part of the ongoing blog tour.
Publication Journey – Su Bristow.
‘How did you get to the point of publication?’ is a question that often comes up. For me, the real turning point was winning the Exeter Novel Prize in 2014. You have to submit a synopsis and the first 10,000 words, and I’d only got to 50,000 at that point, but my goodness, that put a rocket under me!
When I entered, I wasn’t thinking ‘What if I win?’ at all. In fact, the main reason for entering was that the three writers who set up the competition – Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and Sophie Duffy – are good friends of mine, and I wanted to support their business, Creative Writing Matters. I should add here that they read all the entries without knowing who the authors are, and that the finalists are chosen by Broo Doherty on the merits of the writing alone.
I’d been working on Sealskin for five years or so at that point, as well as writing short stories, and I was feeling my way slowly and carefully through, not in any particular hurry. I had the general outline of the plot, of course, because it started from a traditional folk tale, but the finer details emerged from the development of the characters themselves, and it took time to get to know them, living with them and thinking about them pretty much every day.
The last 30,000 words took about three months to write, and then it was another few months before Broo Doherty came back to me with some editorial suggestions. I worked on those, and eventually, at the second Exeter Novel Prize awards a year later, she agreed to take me on.
Then came the rejection phase. When you send a manuscript to a publisher, the response time can vary enormously, from almost at once to many months, or maybe never. And I knew from the experience of other writers that it can be many years – if ever – before it gets accepted, so I simply tried to put it out of mind and get on with other things. But eventually – hallelujah! – it was accepted by Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books.
Karen had left Arcadia the year before, and was working hard to build her own list, so she really got behind Sealskin. There was more re-drafting to do, and more waiting until she had a time slot for publication, but at last – just before Christmas last year – the ebook came out. The paperback will be launched in March, and the audiobook follows shortly after that.
But you don’t just publish a book, of course. There’s the blogging and the reviews and the talks and the tweets, and all the other things that are essential to help it on its way. Karen is sending out review copies as I write, complete with lovely herbal tea (I’m a herbalist by profession, and one of the main characters in Sealskin is a healer) and tissues, because I seem to be rather good at making people cry!
About the Book:
Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies—seals who can transform into people—evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set.
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