About Me

My photo
Bookish. Publisher at Louise Walters Books. Reader, writer, and editor.

Friday, 14 May 2021

And then there were twelve...

As I write, it's just two days until S J Norbury's debut novel Mrs Narwhal's Diary is published, on Sunday 16 May. This is the day the diary begins, so we thought it would be a nice day to publish the book. My twelfth at LWB! 

We thought it would also be nice to write a blog post about how I came to publish S J's novel...

In January 2019, Jericho Writers sent a project to me and asked me to provide an in-depth editorial report. I'd been working with Jericho Writers for a couple of years at that point, and most of the projects I'd worked on were very much beginners' work, needing lots of input, and usually full of rookie errors. Interesting work, and work I needed (and still need) to pay my wages and finance my publishing; but, at times, quite repetitive... the same mistakes do seem to crop up over and over again ;-) 

In February 2019 I started work on the project named Mrs Narwhal's Diary and just a few sentences in I realised I was reading something extraordinary. The characters lifted off the page from the start; it was funny, warm, engaging, charming. This is how I introduced S J's report:

"Thank you for the chance to read and work on your novel Mrs Narwhal’s Diary. I have to say, it is rare to get the chance to work on such a professional and accomplished manuscript. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your novel. Funny, fresh, invigorating, surprisingly moving in places. Pithy, shrewd observations throughout only add to the novel’s great charm. Your fabulous cast of characters, and great characterisation (generally, with a few slips, which I will talk about later) are fascinating to follow. I was rooting for all of them at one point or another. There were many genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and my family gave me many odd looks, and there were several “What’s up with Mum?” type comments all over the weekend as I read and laughed my way through your novel." 

I gave S J some tips for improving a few aspects of the story, and I encouraged her to try agents. She did... but, astoundingly, she didn't get offered representation. I'm still rather puzzled by that. Of course, at the back of my mind I was longing to publish Diary myself, but I didn't want to offer until S J had tried other, bigger routes to publication. I felt her writing was more than good enough to get representation and it was a huge surprise to me that it didn't. 

So, we had a chat... we met up in Worcester for coffee and cake... and it was agreed that I would publish Mrs Narwhal's Diary. I know it deserved more, much more - an agent and a big glossy deal with a Big 5 publisher - but those things weren't on offer. And I felt both deeply disappointed and wildly ecstatic. We commenced our editorial work, and I engaged once again the assistance of cover designer Jennie Rawlings, and interior designer Leigh Forbes; and LWB author Helen Kitson who helped us out with copy editing. We had a lot of fun editing the novel. It's a book that's just as delightful to work on as it is to read. I love all the characters, especially Rose, the sassy, beautiful, but deeply vulnerable sister-in-law of the eponymous Mrs Narwhal (we never get to know Mrs N's first name). Rose, like all the characters, has real depth, emotional depth. To my mind the relationship between Mrs N and Rose is the novel's central relationship, and it's unusual to see sisters-in-law placed at the heart of a novel. 

Lockdown disrupted things, of course. My carefully planned publishing schedule went up in smoke! But in the end we couldn't resist publishing the book on the day the diary begins, 16 May. May is a perfect time to publish any book, and especially a perfect summer read like this one. 

I always hope all my books find their readers. They all deserve to be widely read; and Diary is perhaps my most commercial title. It's not really an "indie press book". I'll always know that a Big 5 publisher could have snapped it up, and made it a huge hit. It should be a Richard and Judy pick; it should be in supermarkets; it should be gracing bookshop windows, and be on a table somewhere near the front of your local Waterstones. The BBC should be gagging to option it for a Sunday night series. And all that could still happen, if the book finds readers and gets into bookshops, and word of mouth does its thing. I truly hope that happens. All books are bigger than their publisher, and Mrs Narwhal's Diary is  truly big, or deserves to be. Please help to make that happen by buying the book, borrowing the book, reviewing it, recommending it to others. 

You can read  an excerpt of Mrs Narwhal's Diary on S J's author page on my website here

Mrs Narwhal's Diary is published on 16 May by Louise Walters Books in paperback and e-book, and will be published by W F Howes in large print, and in audio, narrated by actress Helen Keeley.  


No comments:

Post a Comment