One door opens, another opens wider

A few years back I told my editor at Random House that I had some ideas for a novel.  The answer came back promptly. ‘Good. How about something set in the New Zealand goldfields? Probably a romance. They’re selling well in Germany.’ I was taken aback. ‘Er – um – er, – ‘ I said. ‘I’ll think about it’.

“Hmmn…books. New fangled rubbish. They’ll never replace scrolls, you know”.

I wasn’t too surprised – New Zealand has always had a profile at the Frankfurt book fair. But a goldfield romance novel? I never did follow that up. And a few weeks ago Random released a goldfield romance novel.

Not written by yours truly. By somebody else – by one of New Zealand’s best novelists, in fact. That’s for the best too. Not really my thing, romance novels. So you won’t hear me going ‘aaaaaugh’ after staring a gift horse in the mouth from one of the big houses. Fact is, one of the books I did write –  and which Random published – ended up on the New Zealand non-fiction top five best seller lists for a couple of months. Then it sat in the top thirty for a year or so. It’s still selling today. It’s called Big Ideasyou can buy it online if you’re interested.

It all worked out for the best – there’s a great novel out there, by someone who’s really good at it. I got on with books that have sold very well. Everybody wins. Besides, like the Cylons, I have a plan. (Cue dramatic chord, sneaky look and evil laugh.)

Have you ever turned down an apparently promising offer, then have something as good come along?

Meanwhile, I got a box of books today – my author copies of  Convicts – New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past. The excitement builds. Penguin are publishing the print edition in a fortnight, e-book to follow on Kobo. It’s about New Zealand’s early nineteenth century, a time full of complex characters, wild adventures and excitement. It’s about escaped criminals trying to do good, ship captains trying to do bad – and it’s way better than a novel, because it’s all true. You can pre-order the print edition right now, from Fishpond, New Zealand’s online bookstore.

Get ready for the online launch event. Watch this space.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012

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5 comments on “One door opens, another opens wider

  1. Julia Indigo says:

    “Good. How about something set in the New Zealand goldfields? Probably a romance. They’re selling well in Germany.”

    LOL!!!

    Whenever I read romance novel queries (and there are plenty to see online as examples of queries that resulted in published romance novels) I want to throw an anvil at the screen.

    “That’s preposterous! That would never happen! What in the world does she see in him!!!1!1!!!”

    You get the picture. I could never, in good conscience, write a romance novel. (Though I always say ‘never say never’, so this comment may come back to bite me one day).

    You? Writing a romance novel? Talk about not going with your strong suit! I’d say you made the best decision, hands down.

    Oh, and thx for the big laugh!

  2. Stuff often happens to me that’s pretty funny, when I look back. My editor, Sarah, was outlining the stuff that the market’s currently looking for – and for most New Zealanders, the door to international sales usually comes via Frankfurt with its annual book fair. (In another story about ‘funny things that happen to me’, I inadvertently said ‘Achtung’ to my wife in the departure hall at Frankfurt airport, once, it didn’t prompt half the people around me to snap to attention, but I got some really funny looks. Luckily we were leaving.)

    Just to avoid giving any wrong impressions about a fellow Kiwi author…The book I’m referring to is by Jenny Patrick, it’s called “Skylark”, and it’s published under Random’s Black Swan imprint. Though I call it a ‘romance’, it’s a mainstream novel – the tale is that of a young actress and includes real historical figures like Bully Hayes (an utter psychopath who’s featured in a few of my non-fiction accounts of the period). Jenny is NZ’s best current novelist, and our best selling, she’s shifted over 100,000 copies of her earlier titles and this one is up for some awards.

    I do, of course, have a novel of my own which I’m going to pitch soonish – but you are quite right, there is no chance whatsoever that I could do a romance novel. I’d have to read one first, for a start…

  3. Lemuel says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the Jenny Patrick novel. I had no idea she had a new book out – and on the gold rush no less. She is certainly doing well for herself. I’m surprised that her book ‘the Denniston Rose’ hasn’t been turned into a movie yet. I recall rumors of the script rights being sold in the US back in the mid 2000′s but haven’t heard anything since.

    I buy and read every New Zealand Historical Fiction that hits the shelves. Partly out of principle because I like to see Kiwi authors do well, partly because I enjoy a good historical yarn and partly just to analyse the genre – perhaps I’ll even take a stab at one myself in the distant future.

    One thing I’ve noticed is the distinct lack of male authors tackling historical fiction in New Zealand. If I ever won lotto then I’d be tempted to commission Bernard Cornwell to write a good ripping historical Kiwi adventure – for men.

    • Or me. I have very competitive rates :-) Yeah, there’s not a lot of male-written historical fiction about here, though I see Hamish Clayton’s “Wulf” (Penguin) is up for a gong this week – his take on Te Rauparaha.

  4. ljclayton says:

    You’ll always have good offers from publishers.

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