Having a book published is at once a joyous and an agonising process. In some ways it is akin to giving birth! Books are a bit like babies. Once it has arrived it is as if you have always known it, and is impossible to imagine life without it or indeed before it. Yet, only this time last year my first literary baby, my debut novel The Woman Who Lost China, was still a bump of manuscript in a tatty envelope at the front of my filing cabinet. A chance meeting at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio led me to the publishers Open Books, who had the courage to take me on, and I have never looked back. Contractual negotiations, editorial meetings, marketing meetings, proofs, cover designs, lead sheets, press releases, and a dose of last minute drama, and finally, at last, The Woman Who Lost China was live!
Just as sage parents warn that the birth is just the prelude to the real work, so it is with new novels. I have had a roller coaster six months doing interviews and talks; a guest lecture at The School for Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, the honour of being American talk show radio host Cyrus Webb’s 600th guest, returning to St. Anne’s College Oxford, my alma mater to join a book showcase, among many other exciting things. The surprise of being listed by Rana Mitter in his Daily Telegraph ten book literary tour of China was hard to beat. I could not believe I was seeing my book and name alongside many great and well known authors, some of whom I had studied as an undergraduate.
Without a doubt the best things about being an “emerging writer” have been getting critical feedback and meeting a whole range of wonderful people both in the UK and all over the world. I am always humbled when people, with such busy lives, take time to read my work and what is more write to me about it, review it, or come to tell me about it; “your work made me cry”, “your work inspired me and helped me with my own project.” I have been particularly touched by feedback from Chinese who on occasions have told me that The Woman Who Lost China is the story of their own grandparents, which they had never written. I will also never forget when the grounds men at my son’s school told me they wanted to buy signed copies to “lay down” for the day I became a J.K. Rowling!
As the year draws to a close, there is a sadness, however, and that lies in the fact that The Woman Who Lost China, although available worldwide through my publisher’s site, and all the usual online retailers including Amazon, is not available in any format on Amazon China. Only last week a lawyer friend emailed from Shanghai to tell me that he had to wait until he went on a business trip to Kuala Lumpur to buy my book. Taking a break today from work on my second novel to sip coffee and warm myself against the Aga, I cannot help but wonder who is lost, the Woman or China?