There is Magic all Around us
Three years ago, I was trying to write something commercial in order to find myself an agent but every time I began something new, I lost interest. Then someone sent me a link to a video of Tori Amos singing Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill. I am a huge fan of Kate Bush but don’t usually like covers of her work. However, I was very taken with Tori’s version and began to explore more of her music. I became interested in her as a person and started to listen to her interviews and podcasts. I stumbled upon a particular piece where she discusses her early failure as ‘a rock chick’ in a band called Why Can’t Tori Read. Tori was a child prodigy who started playing the piano at two years old and was accepted into the Peabody School of Music at five. Consequently, she felt completely devastated at being a musical failure and from being called a ‘bimbo’ by the music press. Her response was not to care anymore about the commerciality of her work. She needed to be true to herself and write heartfelt music, even if she only had the opportunity to play the compositions for friends in her living room. The result was Little Earthquakes, an exceptional album that shot her to the top of the music charts. At that point, something resonated within me, and Alison arrived fully formed inside her house, narrating her story to me as if I was her confidante. I was so engrossed that although I must have led a normal life when I was away from the keyboard, it feels like I didn’t emerge until I had completed the first draft.
Many drafts later, and having taken heed of the great insight of my wonderful editor Victoria Blunden - another lucky encounter - I finally had a publishable novel but unlike my other works, after sending out so many query letters, I didn’t receive a single response calling in the whole manuscript. It was very disheartening. On reflection, it was a similar scenario to before I was inspired to write Song for Ria. I was in two minds about the mainstream publishing industry. Although I desperately wanted readers and my work to be out there, I didn’t want to become a slave to the industry with little or no input on how my work would be presented to the public. I also did not feel I had the skills and the acumen to create a successful self published book. On the same day I finally admitted all of this to myself, I stumbled across an advert for Red Door Press, a hybrid publisher, which means the publisher and author form a publishing partnership. The idea had my heart racing even more after I heard Clare Christian, the owner of the company, interviewed on a Desert Island Discs style podcast. Clare came across as a creative, dynamic publishing iconoclast and exactly the kind of person I would like to champion my work. After an agonising wait for her response, she replied. ‘I absolutely loved it. I just couldn't put it down.’
My experiences of writing and finding an appropriate publisher for Song for Ria also mirrors Alison’s journey. She, too, needed to find her right path. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she chose me as her scribe.
Song for Ria will be published on the 22nd June 2022 by Red Door Press.