This time last week I was downstairs in Waterstones Piccadilly. It was the night of the launch of my second novel THE SLEEPING PRINCE.
Half of my face was painted gold and I was wearing a crown I’d made at home two nights before. At that point in time, I still had my shoes on. If I remember rightly, my publicist Rachel had just shown me my cake, and I was trying not to cry because there was a cake, and the cake had a map on it of the world I’d created, and my publishers did that for me.
They had set up a table with alchemical potions and knick-knacks on; they’d made badges showing the countries in my world so people could choose where they were ‘from’. They’d supplied wine and pop and crackers and blue cheese. And they’d got me a cake – did I mention the cake?
It was my cake. For my second book.
There’s a lot of nervous talk around second books – second anything, in fact. We’ve all heard of Second Album Syndrome, and the Sophomore Slump. Second books are notoriously harder to write; first books are often laboured over and nourished for years before eventual publication, whereas second books are usually written to a deadline. There’s more expectation to write a ‘better’ book second time around. There’s the fear that all of the fire and innovation was used up writing the first book and the second will come from a more mechanical place. There’s the worry that being able to write a first book was a fluke, and it can’t possibly be repeated.
I’m lucky, because when you write a series, you already know largely what the second book will be about. You don’t truly have to start from scratch, as all of the groundwork – the world, the history, the characters – is already in place.
Unless you do something stupid, like set it in a different place, and have a different character telling the story. But what kind of idiot would… Ah. Yeah.
From the very earliest days of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, I knew I wanted it to be a series. And I knew the narrator of the second part would be Errin. I knew the whole story was the tale of two very different girls; one raised up to be something special, and one ordinary; one full of darkness and fear, one light and hopeful. But it felt like an unusual approach, and I was scared it would go wrong, that it would fail. To be honest, I was scared of everything when I was writing The Sleeping Prince.
I’ve never admitted this before, but this time last year, I was not having any fun. I was terrified of what people would think of my first book. I was convinced it would be a flop, and that I was going to let down everyone who’d worked so hard on it, my cover designer, the sales team, marketing, editorial. Everyone. I couldn’t connect with the experience, I couldn’t really talk about it. I felt like a fake and a fraud and I was so, so frightened that this one thing – this impossible dream – was going to be taken away from me. I kept waiting for the axe to fall. For a year, I couldn’t look up in case I saw it.
The thing that got me through last year was my agent and my publishing team – the very people I was convinced I was failing. Claire Wilson, Genevieve Herr, Emily Lamm, Rachel Phillips, Mallory Kass. They kept my mind focused on The Sleeping Prince, but still reminded me how much they loved TSED. They replied to my emails with speed, and kindness, and understanding. They gave me the room to be creative on my own terms, and always, always with their support.
So that’s why having a cake was A BIG DEAL. Having a cake was the solid proof that they were proud of me – proud of us, and what we’d made – and that they wanted to celebrate. It seems such a stupid thing, of all the things they’ve done for me, to wax lyrical about a cake but to me it was everything. So this year I won’t shut up about The Sleeping Prince. Because my team deserve to know how over the top, over the moon thrilled I am with it and all of the work we’ve all put into it.
And to reassure Claire that there will be a lot less, “Claire, I think you’ve made a huge mistake representing me” emails this year.
To make up for not letting myself be happy in 2015 I am making an extra effort to enjoy myself in 2016. And there’s a lot to celebrate. The Sin Eater’s Daughter was the bestselling UK YA Debut of 2015. It’s been nominated for the Carnegie Greenaway Medal, for the Branford Boase award (along with my UK editor, Gen Herr). It is shortlisted in the North East Teen Book Awards and has even been nominated for an Edgar by the Mystery Writers of America (!!!).
In fact, I’m so determined to be proud of myself that I launched The Sleeping Prince twice! The beautiful Chelley Toy of Tales of Yesterday wrote an ace write-up of the second one, and I think I’ve been mawkish enough for one post, so I’ll leave you with her version. But at the time of going to press, I predict I’ve probably started a trend for multiple launches, because it’s the most fun. I fully expect many authors to hold multiple, country-wide launch events this year. And so they should. This is a great job to have. We should celebrate more.