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It’s in the post, honestly…

August 10, 2010

I suspect that somewhere in Bloomsbury’s New York offices this afternoon, a hard-pressed production editor could have been seen banging his head on his desk. If we’d had a video link, he and I could have done it in unison.

I’d promised to get my corrected proofs of Ruso 4 to said Editor by last Friday, so he could get everything parcelled up and sent off to the elves who magically make words into books. Having posted them well in advance, I was feeling rather smug – until Friday came, and instead of a note of thanks came a polite reminder.

Monday arrived, but still no proofs. The elves, who have a schedule to meet, must have been getting twitchy. I was still feeling smug. Always one to look on the bleak side, I’d allowed for the possibility of the parcel vanishing over the Atlantic. Before posting, I’d fought a pitched battle with Staples’ photocopier and emerged clutching a duplicate set. Yes, all 340 pages.

‘Never mind,’ I assured the nice Editor. ‘I can type out the changes and email them.’

Now in 340 pages there are bound to be a few typos, but these are as nothing compared to the writer’s urge to pencil in last-minute changes. It’s the final chance to try and make your novel the wondrous thing it was when you dreamed it up in the middle of the night, instead of the battered reality that emerged several months later. There were a LOT of changes.

Still, I boldly set to, checking and collating and scrawling in pink and scattering pages across duvet and sleeping husband until 1 am, then up at the keyboard bright and early, spurred on by a combination of coffee and guilt. (When you post something as ‘printed materials’ aren’t you supposed to leave it accessible so the customs folk can check it? Coating the entire package in Sellotape may have been a mistake.)

Still, while the corrected proofs were lying in a corner somewhere waiting to be sniffed by a drugs dog, I’d discovered the creative inspiration that comes from a second ‘last chance’ to make amendments.

Finally, triumphantly, I tapped out an email to hard-pressed Editor announcing that a full typed list of even better amendments was attached. As the little envelope emptied itself in the corner of the screen an ominous yellow ‘unopened’ one appeared.

It was from hard-pressed Editor. All was well! The elves were happy! The parcel had just arrived.

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12 comments

  1. Oh dear! What a story!

    You may be interested in fellow novelist Jasper Fforde’s approach to amendments: see his Book Upgrade Centre at http://www.jasperfforde.com/upgradegc.html.


    • That’s a great link, Jonathan. What a joy Jasper Fforde is. Maybe some of his Nursery Crime Division could solve the mystery of why I’ve had to type this reply twice, and what happened to the first one.


  2. MS. Downie

    Congratulations. It sounds like you should have some well deserved and very hard earned R&R coming.

    I must say that I cannot help believing that your hard work and bulldog tenacity are surely spurred onward by higher motive forces than coffee and guilt (and an unblinking hard-pressed editor).

    Well, I am looking forward to your fourth novel. I am sure it will be as enjoyable as the previous three.

    These days when one purchases a movie on DVD, the disk often includes alternate endings, bits and pieces of the movie that were cut from the final edition and producers commentary explaining last minute changes. I think it might be fun to receive your novel with an appendix of some of the cuts and changes from the final edition via commentary by the author.

    Here’s wishing success to your latest venture.

    Phil Hall
    Oregon, USA


    • Thank you for the kind wishes, Phil. To be honest the last-minute tweaks are pretty minor, largely because they have to fit into the same space as the words you’re cutting out – an interesting challenge. They’re largely to do with tone and the realisation that what you’ve written doesn’t entirely make sense. Or some last-minute piece of research that you wish you’d stumbled across before.

      But certainly there are whole scenes that vanish along the way. I had an eccentric elderly lady guardian whose temple burned down in the first draft of Book Three. Sadly she ended up in the ‘dump’ file after the editor had pointed out – quite rightly – that she was completely unnecessary. But I think she’s still hiding on the computer somewhere, waiting for her day in the sun.
      Ruth


  3. hello, ms downie!

    just now saw this posted on your blog – am quite looking forward to the fourth book! i’ve been listening, yet again, to all three of the ruso books (presently halfway through persona non grata), & am enjoying them immensely.

    my question is, i have missed albanus & i was wondering if he will be in the upcoming book.

    thank you & hope you enjoyed your bank holiday!

    penny


    • Hello Penny,
      Yes, Albanus is back in the next book – I was missing him too!


  4. Yaaaa!! one more question (and sorry to be a bother if you have already said this previously): do you have any idea at this point approximately when the latest book might be released?
    ps – thanks for having your first ever guest vicki leon on your blog – very much enjoyed reading what she had to say! have reserved how to mellify a corpse at my local bookstore – how can you resist that title?! am picking it up today.


    • It’s no bother, Penny – as far as I know the next book will be out in the USA in January, and the UK in March – but authors don’t have any input at this stage, so I don’t always know the latest. If there’s any more news, I’ll post it on the blog. (By the way, I think the proposed US cover design is the best yet… )


    • OK, I may have been wrong about January – following Mark’s link above I see Amazon are expecting it in December. Well that shows how much I know!


      • hello!

        barnes & noble and borders both have it on their websites too (with the wonderful cover design!); they are showing a publish date of dec 21 – i really am very excited to read the next one!

        am assuming there will be an accompanying audiobook? i do love listening to the books as well. the narrator from the last 3, simon vance, is perfect. i listen to loads of books & seriously, he is one of the best narrators i’ve heard. he always seems to get the emotion, tone, & inflection in the voices just right. it’s really so important to do that. for instance, the marcus didius falco series (another favorite that you were so kind to tell me about – thank you again!) – i wanted to get the audiobooks too since i enjoyed them so much but the narrator makes the protagonist, who is a young man, sound like a leathery old man of the sea w/a few sprigs of hair & possibly a broken nose. :P not to be mean, but it’s what i envisioned when i listened to the preview on itunes. so disappointed! will have to content myself to just reading those. but the narrator for ruso & company, he gets them just right. to my ears, anyway!



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