Today I received my first copy of The Wild Swans. It is always a strange feeling when you first hold in your hands a finished book that you have, with your publisher, created. There is something about this one that is more special for me. But it is really a long story, a tale of two books.
Years ago, maybe in 2004, I wrote a text for a novella, a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I wrote it because I have loved the story for as long as I have known it but there were parts that puzzled me, that I didn’t understand. I thought by writing it out I would gain a better understanding. And then I spent 7 years trying to find a publisher. I had some wonderful rejection letters, most saying that they loved the book but it didn’t fit on their list anywhere. Eventually it found a home with Janetta Otter-Barry Books. Janetta and Frances Lincoln didn’t have anything like it either, but she loved the text and was willing to see how it went, and despite the marketing people saying it would be a difficult sell it sold out in 6 weeks. Since then it has been reprinted at least 3 times and it was nominated for the Carnegie award.
It’s a book about leaving home, for the first time, about love, about honour, and perseverance. I dedicated it to my daughter and my friend. To find out more about the book have a look here.
Now there is a companion volume, a retelling of The Wild Swans, published in October. Written many years later, illustrated throughout I dedicated this book to Janetta and Jude, my editors, for this would be the last book I would do for them at Frances Lincoln. We worked together for 20 years. In modern publishing that is very unusual.
The thing is, Frances Lincoln, which used to be an independent publisher, was sold to a large company, and FL is now a small part of The Quarto Group. New logo, new website, Quarto new staff, new look.
Jude retired from the company ( and is now freelance) and Janetta has moved on to set up her own company, Otter-Barry Books, which I know many people are exited about. Her list launches in May and I am very pleased to say that The Seal Children will be on that list, re-launched as a hardback, with a new cover. So, The Wild Swans is my swansong with them at FL.
I hope The Wild Swans is a fitting companion to East of the Sun. There were parts that came easier, others that were harder and all of the work was produced at a turbulent and uncertain time in my life. It wasn’t easy, but I hope that like a swan gliding on water, working hard beneath the surface, the struggle doesn’t show.
There are characters in the book that haven’t finished with me yet. The Queen, who runs with the wild hares. She manages to have the last word, or perhaps I should say ‘image’. And Eliza’s youngest brother, gentle Cygfa, who loves to fly.
Together Jude, Janetta and I produced a quite a few books. Many were translated into different languages. Some brought comfort to lost souls and magic into people’s hearts. I hope that this, our last together for Frances Lincoln, will become a treasure for people who love stories.
There will, as ever, be a launch for the book at Solva Woollen Mill. This will be on Saturday September 19th from 10.30-4pm. I will be painting at the mill and also will read from parts of the book whenever I am asked, and talk about current work, past work, dogs, cats and nonsense. So, if you can come, do come. And signed books, as always, will be available from the Mill.
It’s strange. Holding the finished copy of the book in my hands it sends shiver up and down my spine. Magic. I love books. Joanne Harris says, in her Hay Festival podcast, that writing is ‘ the closest thing to magic there is’, ‘like voodoo’. I hope when readers hold this in their hands they feel that same shiver.