I'm honoured to share with you a guest post written by Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between which I reviewed earlier this month. This post is part of the blog tour which is still on going. You can find the other stops in the tour listed here on Claire's website.
How did you get the news that your book had been selected from the slush pile, and what was your initial reaction?
Everything changed on June 30 2014. The financial year ended and so did my years of wandering the desert of literary frustration. (So dramatic! Such Hemingway! Let’s keep moving…) I opened the email from Haylee Nash, Pan Macmillan’s Fiction Commissioning Editor, with my face already set in a stoic mask of acceptance at what would no doubt be another rejection letter, but instead she was asking to see the full manuscript. I don’t entirely remember what I did but I expect it involved swearing, crying or checking to see if it was spam. Or, most likely, all of the above.
Everything from that point on has really just been a series of protracted cardiac episodes, played out in a ridiculous interchange between my normal life and my dream life. For instance:
- Because the initial email conversation in which Haylee told me she wanted to pitch it to the publishing team took place during work hours, I conducted the whole thing sitting in an open plan office trying to discretely answer her emails while minimising them if anyone walked past. Department of Social Services made everyone in the community sector reapply for all the service contracts last year so I was in the middle of writing eight grant applications whilst periodically sneaking off to lock myself in the toilet and dance ecstatically while shrieking mutely like an office- bound Kate Bush.
- Because of the combined drama of these two things, I promptly became ill in what turned out to be a completely ridiculous bout of hand, foot and mouth disease (‘But isn’t that something only children get, Claire?’ Yes, children and apparently me). I conducted my first phone call with Haylee propped up in bed being contagious, trying to sound witty, articulate and bankable through the raw lesions in my mouth. It was as disgusting as that sentence made it seem. So while a large part of me was flipping out over my dreams potentially coming true, a much more vocal part had decisively convinced myself I was dying, of a childhood illness, no less.
- When I got the news a week or so later that it had been green lighted I sat very silently at my work computer before locking myself in the toilet for a celebratory Wuthering Heights-style meltdown. That afternoon a young woman came to our service who had been experiencing horrific abuse and I spent the evening waiting with her and another colleague for the taxi to arrive to take her to refuge. This absolutely contextualised my excitement and I’m grateful it did because life is at once a horrible and beautiful thing.
Then came the contract negotiations and the rest of it. In all, this probably amounted to approximately eleven days all up, but at the time it felt like an eternity. Like it was all happening in slow motion, as if someone was patiently removing my nails one by one. I know it should have been an exciting time but I retain the deep-seated pessimism of my Cypriot forebears and naturally assume that anything good will soon be met with famine, pestilence, war and death. This feeling – as if someone would snatch this all away from me – lasted until about a week ago and it is only now with the book physically in my hand/surgically attached to my body that I can truly enjoy all this. And gosh there’s so much to enjoy.
The Bit in Between is available now from Pan MacMillan. RRP $29.99