It has been a about three months since my first published novel, Vampsov 1938, made it out of the pre-publication darkness and into the light (OK, the Amazon warehouse, if you can call that light). This period has been a rather hectic one for me, seeing as I had been moving around quite a bit and have ended up working in Germany. Germany? I’m sure Ludmilla my main character, would not approve. But hey, different times and places and all that.
So I sits here, nursing my Franziskaner Weissbier and twiddling a pretzel between my fingers as Oktoberfest goes on all around me and I reflect on what has been happening to my infant book during its first months out in public. Hasn’t won a Booker yet or outsold Stephen King even. But hey, early days and all that.
In all seriousness, I have been told that it takes time for the gears to crank up and sales and critical opinion to begin to make their mark. Perhaps I am to blame for this neglect in some way because I feel that Vampsov is a bit of an orphan at the minute. The book was launched far away in the US, I wrote it in the UK, yet am now living in a non-English speaking market so I can’t very well promote the book other than through the web and all. Poor ickle thing must feel abandoned. Keep promising it a big launch party, press releases, bookshop signings, events etc. And I can’t do any of that here. Still, the money for all that has to come from somewhere and how else am I going to earn it?
Despite all this disruption I am still very much a happy camper. For a start here is the (perhaps childish) thrill of knowing I’ve done it. I’ve got a book out! Woohooheehaaaa! On a more balanced note, I have had a lot of feedback that has given me reason to smile. A lot of the people who have read my book get it: the drama at the heart of the story, the family struggle mirrored in the political savagery. The dark humour borne of hopelessness. The vampire and the Stalinist toe to toe… a real monster facing an imaginary one. I’ve even given a snazzy interview to the force of nature that is the amazing Johnny Worthen.
And even the criticisms so far have been fair, given me pause for thought, pointed towards things I can improve on. Because I want to improve, grow, become better at this fascinating and exasperating craft. Dammit, next time you will find it harder to find fault, any fault!
So here is what I’m going to do to help out my little orphan Vampsov. A UK launch event will happen sometime next year, I’m thinking of a launch and birthday party combo with Borscht and balloons. My little orphan will be getting a little brother or sister too. I am writing the sequel to this volume (Vampsov 1940), and I hope to have a polished draft sorted soon.
Finally, I will try not to think out loud when surrounded by chaps in lederhosen. Some of them are giving me funny looks, I tell you. Nothing to see here guys, just sippin ma beer and twiddlin me pretzel… Blimey, I must be the only person wearing proper trousers this side of Holland.
It’s been a long time coming, my debut novel. Finished my first draft in late 2009 and believed it was all fine and dandy. I even had it spellchecked! In my grubby mitts I held a copy of a Vampire novel set in the Soviet Union of the 1930s with Stalin in it and everything. What more could any editor want? Lots, as it happened. Early the next year I submitted three chapters to an editor at a conference in Loughborough. He panned it. Not the idea, mind, just the execution. Told me to change it around to his specification and come back to him the next year. Head bowed, a tear in my eye, I swallowed my pride and knuckled down.
After a year I asked about submitting, but the agent concerned seemed less than keen. So, back to the drawing board, I began submitting to small presses with my updated version. Again, no luck.
My last batch of rejections included a good one. Kate Jonez the guru of Omnium Gatherum Press in far off Los Angeles, sent me a letter telling me she rejected the manuscript as it stood. She liked the strong female character at the centre of the novel, but the manuscript needed another thorough revision. Again, I went away and did as I was told. This time (it was getting on for 2011 by now) success. Kate gave me the OK to send the full manuscript and in time, gave me a contract to sign. Success!
Well, sort of. Another rewrite was necessary. Again, I did it. By now 2012 had danced its way across the world until the beast had finally been tamed. Only minor corrections and proofreading remained. The beast of Vampsov had been conquered.
And so here it is, five years later, a lean, mean 80,000 word book with my name on it. Prould of the little fella, as it happens. Like all five year-olds its bursting with energy, ideas, imagination and thought-provoking questions –but it doesn’t start having tantrums in the supermarket when you don’t buy it sweets. I think you should own one. I’ll sign it for you too, if you like. You can buy them at Amazon or the good folks at Omnium Gatherum. Available to you from June 7th 2013.