THE FEELING OF HAPPINESS AFTER FINISHING A BOOK

The feeling of happiness after you've finished writing a book!

Today I typed the words "The End". They were words number 77,070 and 77,071 respectively. And whilst those words are there, at the end of my manuscript, this is not the end of the road.

Wine Tasting in Argentina

I will toast the completion of PAINTED, with a glass of Pinot Noir, and the smug satisfaction that it all came together nicely in the end, over seven months. Before 11.30pm last night, I had no idea how it was going to end, not properly. I'd mulled over some ideas in the shower, like always. Some ideas had come half formed as I drifted off to sleep. Walking round Cornwall Park listening to podcasts delivered others. But the end, the last few paragraphs, were as elusive as the winning lottery numbers.

But at 11.30pm last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, with my rescue cat sleeping awkwardly on my shoulder (I know, she shouldn't be on the bed, but she doesn't know that), the ending came to me as clear as my newly installed double glazing. I turfed the cat off, turned on the lights, and wrote a page of notes. Today, the paragraphs appeared on my laptop as though someone else were writing them.

And so now I'm done. But not really. Not by a long shot.

Today the final chapters were emailed off to Beta Reader #1 - an English friend living in Australia. Three of the earlier chapters were emailed off to Beta Reader #2 - my American friend residing in Washington D.C. Between them, they make sure I don't fill the book with adverbs or colloquialisms only Kiwi's understand.

PAINTED Cover

Also, the first 5,000 words were sent off to a proof reader, with a request for her to quote on proofreading the whole 77,071 words.

Tomorrow I will read PAINTED through, from start to finish, to pick up any inconsistencies, or loose ends.

And then there's the formatting to do, the book to load, and the launch to prepare for.

I think I'm going to need more than one glass of wine.

So, if you would like to be part of the launch team, please message me, and we'll arrange some arc copies to come out to you for review, and as a thank you for your assistance in spreading the word. Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for all your support so far. x

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WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE?

THE SEQUEL TO FIFTEEN POSTCARDS IS COMING.

Contract.jpg

In late May I signed my second publishing contract with Accent Press, a publisher in the United Kingdom. The contract was for the sequel to Fifteen Postcards, titled The Last Letter. And now the work begins...

Now my manuscript is in the very capable hands of my editor, David Powell, and he'll massage it into something far better than what I sent him.

When I say he'll massage it, he'll make a few thousand notations down the sides of the pages, correcting grammatical errors, and querying a myriad of issues he'll no doubt discover in the 131,000 words I wrote.

Then we'll spend several weeks sending the document backwards and forwards across the Tasman Sea, via email, until we are both happy, and then the final product gets sent to the UK for my publisher to typeset, and massage into book form.

In the meantime, I'll also be sent a draft of the cover for approval, or comment. That may go back and forwards a couple of times. I suggested some concepts this time, and now I wait to see if those meet with favour on the other side of the world.

It's a scary thing putting your creative efforts into the hands of others, who then have the power, and the signed contract, to do with as they please! But this is the way of authors who have chosen not to self publish. There are pros and cons with both sides of the coin. I've chosen this side.

It's not a free ride, either way. Even authors with one of the big five publishers have to do their fair share of the marketing. Blog posts, guest posts, book signings, media articles, radio interviews, library visits, book club attendances, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, yes, even Google+. Don't forget LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. I've drawn the line at Snapchat - there is only so much time in the day, and my family would like me to speak to them at times. 

There's all this, and...you still need to write the next one!

Workspace.jpg

First Draft Is Off To The Editor

Today I emailed off the first draft of my second book, The Last Letter, to my editor.

  Happy Author Face!

Happy Author Face!

When I say I emailed off my first draft of The Last Letter, I actually mean I emailed a version of my manuscript where parts of it are version eight, other parts are version six. Some chapters, mainly the later ones, are versions three or four. Some sentences, nay, whole paragraphs, have gone through so many edits, they bear no resemblance to the very first draft I wrote.

So when I say I've emailed off my first draft of The Last Letter to my editor, what I really mean is that I emailed off the first version of my manuscript that someone other than myself will read. A scary thought. Exciting, and terrifying too.

About twenty minutes after I hit the send button, I started thinking about all the things I could have done to improve that first draft. What about the Raja? Will how I've left things at the Old Curiosity Shop make the readers happy? Thoughts tumbled over and over in my mind, querying my attention to detail, my historical accuracy. Did I have enough tantalising tidbits about antiques? Have I done justice to India? To New Zealand? To my characters and their hopes and dreams?

But, in the immortal words of Queen Elsa (from the Disney juggernaut Frozen), I have to let it go. It's out there now. My editor will tell me, in his gentle manner, whether what I've written is good enough, or whether I need to brood over it for a period of time before I send it back to him. And somewhere along the line we'll go through the manuscript page by page, line by line, where the annotated word document flies through the internet at various speeds, correcting comma's, tenses, removing Americanisms (which tend to creep in), and various other issues.

And so I wait. And in the time it will take my editor to read my 131,000 word manuscript I'll attend to my social media platforms, which I have left forgotten in the corner while I tried to fill plot holes and create characters who pushed their way off the page.

Thanks for your patience everyone. This will now very much be a case of watch this space!

The Last Letter
By Kirsten McKenzie

WHO WAS I KIDDING, THINKING MYSELF AN EXPERT?

This is a blog entry I originally wrote for the blog of Tom Williams, author of the Burke series, Cawnpore, and The White Raja. You can access his blog here: http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.nz

An Expert in Antiques?

Enamelled Coins

Fifteen Postcards has just been published by Accent Press. A novel incorporating three continents and traversing two centuries: historical fiction written from a modern perspective. I like to describe it as a blend of ‘The Far Pavilions’, with a touch of ‘The Time Traveler's Wife’, rolled together with a smidgeon of the ‘Antiques Roadshow’. But I haven’t always been an author.

Nine years ago I was working as a Chief Customs Officer with the New Zealand Customs Service. It was a career I adored, and one I appeared to be particularly good at, according to my performance reviews and peer feedback. Then unexpectedly my father died, leaving my mother a widow without an income.

My brother and I quit our jobs. Someone needed to run Antique Alley, the business my father started in 1971. My brother worked full time, whilst I went part time, as my first daughter was born six months after Dad died. The timing was brutal.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ states that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill requires practicing, correctly, for around 10,000 hours. I’ve roughly estimated that since my father died, I’ve worked in the shop for 5,616 hours. I don’t work full time, and I’ve had two children in the past nine years, but I do know that I now have roughly 5,000 hours of additional knowledge of antiques. With that, I thought I had enough knowledge to sit down and write a novel about a girl who works in an antique shop. So I did.

I sat down, with my MacBook one day, and started writing, with no idea of where to go, or how the story was going to evolve. Who it was going to involve, or what the future plan for my writing was. But damn it, I knew antiques, I liked writing, so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?

First off, I started writing about postcards. One of Dad’s passions. He collected them personally. We sell them at the shop. I know that real photo postcards are more collectable than others. That Tuck’s postcards are highly sought after. And that... That’s when I stumbled. What else did I know about postcards? Highly embarrassing, but I had to turn to Google, to the library, to the reference books at work. Those 5,000 hours may as well have been 5 hours, or five minutes watching the Antiques Roadshow for all I knew about postcards. Fortunately William Main had published an exquisite book titled ‘Send Me A Postcard’ which had somehow appeared on the bookshelf at home. Fate? Google is great, but nothing beats a beautifully illustrated piece of research. And so it continued.

Green stone adzes (axe heads), made by the early Maori in New Zealand? I’m a New Zealander, born and bred, albeit with a British passport as well, I know everything there is to know about Maori adzes. Ah, no. Just like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, I knew nothing. A research trip to Auckland’s world class War Memorial Museum proved how little I knew. These are just two tiny examples of the level of research I did for my novel - the one which was meant to be easy because I knew at least half of all I (thought) I needed to know about antiques.

I can hear your readers asking why I bothered with all that research. Surely ‘Fifteen Postcards’ is a fictional account of Sarah Lester’s life in her antique shop in London. It’s not an autobiographical account of Kirsten McKenzie’s life in an antique shop in Auckland. I’ll tell you why. Because my father would have known.

My father was a walking encyclopaedia of back stamps, and hall marks, of fakes and reproductions. He knew gemstones from glass with barely a flick of his eyepiece. He would have been mortified if I’d placed a Victorian dining chair in a Regency setting (I didn’t). I also expected that people who read historical fiction probably knew as much, if not more, about some of things I wrote about. Given that my father won’t ever read my book, I didn’t want to upset the readers who will. It was embarrassing enough when my editor David Powell highlighted that I’d used the wrong currency to describe when Sarah is counting her coins in her bedroom suite in the Savoy in London. His words are burnt into my brain when he gently pointed out that Sarah probably wouldn’t be using George V coins. But that’s what editors are for, and I am eternally grateful.

I wanted every description to not only be beautifully written, but I wanted them to be accurate. That ormolu on the edge of the table? I needed the reader to be able to see it as it was then - in 1860s India, not how its presented in some poorly funded TV commercial for tea bags.

So instead of pumping out an 80,000 word novel in a few months, I wrote a 130,000 word novel over a period of one and a half years, edited it, had it accepted for publication by Accent Press, where it was edited again (and again) and here we are. I’m writing a blog piece for another historical fiction author, one who understands and appreciates the quest for historical accuracy in his research for the Burke series.

I leave you now to carry on with my next manuscript, where I’m immersed in colonial New Zealand just prior to the outbreak of the Maori wars in the 1860s. Wish me luck.

16 July 2015