There’s nothing I like better than hitting the right book at the right time. There’s something magical about the feeling when the book, location and situation all fall into place to create something of an experience.
I’m still haunted by the memory of what was technically a fairly average train journey from Liverpool to London – but because I was reading Helen Dunmore’s The Siege it took on epic and harrowing proportions. The train was delayed in the depths of winter, the heating wasn’t brilliant so I was sat huddled in my coat, gloves and scarf, and, due to staff shortages, they couldn’t open the buffet car. As Anna Levin queued for rations in freezing cold Leningrad, I shivered and shared her hunger. I’m still slightly emotionally scarred – that train journey and the horror of Anna’s situation have blurred in my mind to the point that I now can’t get on a train without buying food first (even if the train is mid afternoon, I’ve already had lunch and will arrive at my destination before dinner) – it’s like a survival instinct kicks in.
There’s a certain synchronicity needed when looking at my submission pile too.
Yes I want to fall in love with a novel and sometimes, if it’s truly outstanding, that can be enough.
But there are so many steps on the path from finding a book I fall in love with to getting that author a publishing deal, and any little synchronicities that can add to the magic help immeasurably.
The last book I signed, a modern gothic, landed on my desk the day after an editor had told me over coffee that she was desperate for a modern gothic for her list. Did I love the writing and the characters? 100%. But did I take it that little bit more seriously because I already knew of an editor who might be interested. Definitely.
I realise this may seem frustrating. As an author looking to submit you can’t engineer these synchronicities – you can’t create that sort of luck (although, you can make sure you’ve followed submission guidelines perfectly)… so I guess the positive I’m trying to put across is that a rejection isn’t always about your book not being good enough.
Keep trying until you hit the right agent at the right time…hold on for serendipity.