Q 1 “What happened to your first novel?”

This feature is a series of questions and answers but with a difference, each month I’ll be publishing the answers from lots of authors to just one question. The questions are mainly book, writing or publishing related but they are meant to be fun!

The first month is “What happened to your first novel?”

Chris Whitaker:  It was kind of a dry run so I was always aware it wasn’t very good. It’s somewhere on my hard drive I think. Then I wrote Tall Oaks and got somewhere with it.

Elizabeth Haynes: The first novel I wrote was for Nanowrimo in 2005. It was a serial killer thriller starring my boss and all the characters were based on real people. Nobody was ever going to read it so I didn’t bother changing any names. It was very cathartic!

Lilja Sigurðardóttir: I entered it into a competition and it was published to good reviews but no sales.

Steven DunneA Ship of Fools is lying in manuscript form in a bottom drawer gathering dust. My memory of it is that it’s quite good but too odd for publication. I learned a lot about the process from it and when I’d finished it, I embarked upon The Reaper, the novel that opened the door to professional writing. I keep promising myself I’ll revisit it one day but, like Dorian Grey’s portrait, it just sits there undisturbed.

Barbara Nadel: The reviews for Belshazzar’s Daughter were good, as I recall, and it sold quite well. I was shocked!

Derek Farrell: It was a giant historical novel. I finished it late August 2001. Two weeks later 9/11 happened. I was working for a bank located in the World Trade Centre, and life became very difficult for a while. By the time things had settled, the book was in a drawer where it has stayed ever since, but it did prove to me that I could write a beginning middle and end, and that melancholy and dark humour were definitely aspects of my métier.

Mari Hannah: My debut – The Murder Wall – was published in the UK in 2012, the first book featuring DCI Kate Daniels. It won the Polari First Book Prize and sparked a series that brought more awards: a Northern Writers’ Award and the Dagger in the Library 2017. The series is also in development for TV with Sprout Pictures, Stephen Fry’s production company. 

Cath StaincliffeMurder at the Community Centre is in a box in the loft. But my second attempt, published after winning a competition, was short-listed for a CWA dagger and serialized on BBC Radio 4. Motto: never give up.

Phoebe Locke: It was published, which I know is a bit unusual – but I should say that it went through so many huge structural tear-it-down-and-start-again edits with beta readers and then my agent and eventually with my editor that it was barely recognizable as the book I began with. I’m not sure I’d be stubborn enough to keep going with something so flawed now but I’m so glad I stuck with that one.

Hanna Jameson: It was published in 2012, nominated for a CWA Dagger Award, and I haven’t looked at it since. It’s left home now. It’s none of my business.

David Jackson: I gave it to a woman in a coffee shop in Edinburgh. It was about a boy wizard, and never would have been accepted for publication. Don’t know what I was thinking.

Nick Quantrill: It’s safely tucked away on a hard drive, never to be seen again. It’s a police procedural and I quickly learned how hard it is to write them, as you need something different and interesting to carry it.

Sarah Ward: It’s sitting as a word file on my computer and its never going to see the light of day. However, the police characters made it into my next book, In Bitter Chill.

V M GiambancoThe Gift of Darkness was published by Quercus in 2013 and it is the first book in the Alice Madison series set in Seattle.

Simon Booker: It never saw the light of day. Thank God. It was terrible.

Susi Holliday: It got loads of rejections, then a publisher bought it and it was a kindle bestseller.

Anna Mazzola: My debut novel, The Unseeing, was published in 2016, having begun life as a short story about five years before that. It was the first novel I wrote, so I feel lucky to have had it published. 

Quentin Bates: It’s still somewhere on my laptop, in the folder marked ‘unpublishable’ and I expect it’ll stay there. I think three or four people read it at the time. It was a very useful learning process and it showed me that I could work with something on that scale. I’m still not convinced that it’s a bad book, but it’s staying where it is in the unpublishable folder.

Fergus McNeill: On the plus-side, people liked it, it did reasonably well, and it led to a series of books which I really enjoyed writing. On the down-side, there’s still no big-budget Hollywood adaptation.

William Shaw: I had a lovely and very brilliant agent who sincerely liked it but couldn’t shift it, however hard her tried. Like an old car, I’ve nicked bits of it and bolted them on to other books. Nothing is wasted.

Rachel Amphlett: It began the Dan Taylor series of spy novels, and has been translated into Italian and German to date.

Mark Edwards: It’s in a box, along with novels two, three and four, in my office and will never be seen . . . unless I’m considerably more famous when I die, in which case it will end up in the Mark Edwards Museum.

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