Writing a book – for me, at least – is tough work. Brutal. Murderous.
Thankfully, though, I had several accomplices along the way to help me pull off what eventually became – if not the perfect crime – as perfect of a crime as I could possibly make it. I first devised the concept for my debut novel, KILL ME ONCE, way back in 2001. I remember the night I began writing it as though it were just ten years ago. Because that’s how long ago it was:
One-tenth of a century.
(Somebody check my math. I’ve always been more of a words guy.)
Anyway, that’s how long it took me to go from dreaming up the first hazy ideas of a plot to seeing my words packaged between gleaming covers that I hadn’t paid for myself down at the local photocopying store. Not that there’s anything wrong with going the photocopying route, of course. Believe me, the option crossed my mind more than once over the years. The way I figured it, at least my mom might enjoy reading it. Hell, maybe a few of my friends would even lie through their teeth and claim they’d read it for themselves – and that it was great. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius. An absolute literary gem destined to find its rightful place in the canon somewhere between Zora Neale Hurston and Shakespeare.
And you know what? It was worth the wait. Every single second of it. Even if KILL ME ONCE never finds its way into a canon of any sort and simply provides a few hours of entertainment to someone out there I’ve never met.
From that first night ten years ago going forward, I always knew precisely where I wanted the book to go. I just needed a little help getting there.
Enter Victoria Sanders, literary agent extraordinaire.
The first thing you should know about Victoria is that she’s a no-nonsense woman. No guff. No bull. No nothing that doesn’t involve getting the job done.
From the very start, Victoria tamed the manuscript as a mother in church might tame an unruly cowlick on her son’s head. I would bristle. I would pull away from her. I would insist everything was fine already.
When that happened, Victoria simply tightened her grip. She understood that she knew best, even if I didn’t understand it at the time.
That cowlick got tamed. That manuscript got whipped into shape. And I’ll never be able to thank her enough. It’s because of her that all of my literary dreams came true. It’s because of her that my friends will be able to lie through their teeth and claim they’ve read KILL ME ONCE – and that is was great. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius. A literary gem.
I got the news that Random House UK had pre-empted world English rights to KILL ME ONCE the day after my birthday in 2009. Good timing. I had exactly eleven cents in my checking account that day. Ten years. Eleven cents.
Here’s to hoping the book sells more than 12 copies.
From there, things only got better. I would soon learn that Kate Elton and Georgina Hawtrey-Woore were my editors. Hyperbole, schmyperbole. In the publishing world, it’s the equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci showing up in a kindergarten class to help the kids polish up their finger-paintings.
Becoming a published author is everything they – whoever the mysterious ‘they’ are, precisely – say it is. It’s a rainbow after a storm. It’s a warm puppy nuzzling your neck. It’s the satisfaction of attempting something difficult and actually succeeding. I still look around sometimes to make sure that they got the right guy.
Becoming a published author in the UK has been a learning experience for me. I had to learn how to use single quotation marks rather than double when writing dialogue. I had to learn the letter ‘u’ exists in words I never knew contained the letter. Colour. Labour. Demeanour. I had to learn ‘for ever’ is two words. Same with ‘any more’. I had to learn where the period goes when a sentence ends with a word inside quotes. (Still a bit confused on that one.)
Thirty-some years after I first learned English, I’m finally learning English. The real version. The kind the Brits use.
Ten years ago, I never dreamed this day would come. But I’m here to tell you it was worth the wait.
Every. Single. Second.
Kill Me Once is published by Cornerstone