IN RETROSPECT: When I was fresh out of the wrapper

In Restrospect picAs a debut author, a first time novelist, an unknown writer from the small presses stepping into the brilliant light of a major publisher, I remember feeling utterly lost, bemused and very afraid. I was ecstatic that I’d signed a book deal with Gollancz – a dream come true! – but I had no idea what came next, and couldn’t help wondering: Who the hell am I?

Of course, I needn’t have been so worried; there were plenty of kind people who were quick to greet me. Team Gollancz were – and always are – amazing. Lots of fellow authors approached me to say hello, congratulations, and welcome to the gang. To all these people, for helping me through that initial round of newbie jitters, I will remain forever grateful.

However, returning home from the cons, events and festivals, where all these wonderful elves dwell, only leads me straight back to the dark confines of my office; that mysterious, shut away sanctuary where there are no windows to let in light, and into which teacups and mugs enter and are never seen again. You know that place. It’s where writers do what they’re supposed to do. Once I’m there, the doubt creeps in. Irrational imaginings make wormholes in my thoughts. I convince myself that when I’m out of sight, everyone I’ve met will instantly forget that I exist.

It’s difficult in those moments to refrain from waving your hands in the air to let everyone know that you’re still around, still alive, and please don’t forget about me. It’s an absurd state to be in, especially as I know deep down that I haven’t been forgotten. But if there’s one true tonic to ease the anguish of self-doubt, it’s having folks around who are in exactly the same boat as you.

This year, Gollancz has been proudly promoting the Class of 2014. That’ll be me and my fellow debuts Den Patrick, Jon WallaceAnna Catlabiano and John Hornor Jacobs. Here were four other writers in the same position as me, waiting to be published for the first time with Gollancz. We found each other on Twitter, waved hello across the internet, checked out each other’s books, and celebrated this exiting and nerve-wracking experience together.

Den, Jon and I got the campaign rolling in terms of live events, but always feeling the absence of John and Anna who live in America. We had to wait until Nineworlds before the Class of 2014 fully assembled. And it felt good to be in a room for the first time with my compatriots, to stand up and be counted alongside them. To their faces, I got to tell them how much I loved their stories. I got to express my gratitude for the support and encouragement they had given me in those moments of self-doubt and irrational imaginings. I hope – deeply hope – that I in turn was of some help to them.

The experience culminated at GollanczFest, and a panel moderated by Gillian Redfearn to introduce the Class of 2014 to the world. Sadly, Anna had flown home to America by that time, and she was missed. However, the rest of us got to sit alongside each other and have some fun before a full house. It was the happiest and safest that I’ve felt throughout this whole journey, because I knew JonDen and John were there with me. It should have been a vulnerable time, when I felt the most exposed, but we were the Gollancz Class of 2014, and we were in it together.

As proud as I am to have been a part of this, there’s also sadness that it has to come to an end, as the Class of 2015 will soon be flying the debut flag. But I’m also buoyed by the fact that my happiest and safest moment was captured on the night, recorded for Gollancz’s YouTube channel. I take comfort from knowing this documentation is there, and long may it serve as a reminder for all writers that we are in this together.

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