I have a new book coming out next week. It's a YA book about a brother and sister who were separated when one of them was adopted and the other was not. Twelve years later they are reunited, when one finds the other on Facebook. It's called Salvage. The cover is a thing of beauty, so please excuse my self promotion in posting it here.
The thing about Salvage is that it very nearly didn't get written. My first publishers, Frances Lincoln Children's Books were about to make an offer, based on an outline and five chapters, but then the new owners decided to cull the children's fiction list. My editors, the wonderful Maurice Lyon and Emily Sharratt lost their jobs. I had no idea who, if anyone, would ever want to publish me again.
My wonderful agent, Jenny Savill took me to see many editors, but most of them were interested in an alternative project that I was working on. So I concentrated my efforts on that, as people were asking for a full manuscript. Salvage - like the neglected children at its heart - was without a secure home.
But then everything changed. It's what everyone dreams of - an editor who loves your idea, loves your story and your characters and has exciting ideas of her own about them. A good editor asks great questions, and that's what Sam Smith from Atom did. What's more, she communicated her excitement to her team. I had an offer from a publisher, a contract and a deadline. Argh. A deadline.
My deadline was December 17 2012. Three months to finish a book which had been in my mind's deep freeze for nearly a year. Three months in which I was also writing a script for a musical and organising my son's barmitzvah. I wrote and wrote and wrote. The characters stubbornly remained deep frozen. At 40,000 words I begged Jenny for help. 'Have you thought of putting in any dialogue?' she asked.
So I reworked the whole thing, and suddenly it caught alight and I believed in the people and the story and actually enjoyed writing it. Sam's initial comments were exceptionally helpful, and I managed to make the deadline. Everything was going well. The book was back on track.
But then - as I worked on my final revisions - there was another hiccup in the process. My wonderful editor Sam was leaving! I couldn't begrudge her new exciting job, and she eased the pain by continuing to work on the book even after she'd left Atom (how dedicated is that?), but I must admit I was nervous. What if her successor hated it? What if he or she didn't like my sort of contemporary realism?
Waiting to hear who was taking over, I went back to work on my alternative project. The musical needed attention too. And Salvage needed line edits, copy edits - it was very nearly finished before I heard who was taking over. Great news! Karen Ball, the very talented editorial director at Working Partners was taking over. Karen is a friend and I knew she'd be a wonderful editor. She jumped in right at the end of the editing process, making excellent suggestions to shape the final version. Relief, excitement, celebration.
So Salvage, like the children in the book, went from home to home, editor/parent to editor/parent. My agent played the role of an excellent social worker, finding just the right place for my book after its intended home fell apart. The process underlined for me the importance of individuals in this business - people who care about writers, stories and books. It's like finding you have a flock of fairy godparents.
And now it's about to be published and I can still hardly believe it. Thank you Maurice, Emily, Sam, Karen and, most of all, Jenny.
Oh, and I'm still working on the alternative project. And the musical. And another book for Atom. I may take about ten minutes off next week to celebrate the official publication of the book I thought I'd never finish.