An advance copy of The Book arrived in the Picador offices in Delhi today. And the editor Pallavi Narayan sent me some photographs which I’ll share here, if I can work out how. Otherwise you can see them on my FB page: Shahrukh Husain.
This is my 23rd book but I feel as excited about it as if it were my first – not that I’m blasé about any of them. That sense of holding in your hand once vague thoughts, gradually coalesced into an idea coherent enough to take to my agent or a publisher, is still, to me, the stuff of dream fulfilment. And then this is my first novel. The realisation of the ambition I articulated at 11 to my English teacher.
My agent warned me that getting a novel would be like starting all over again. I could not rely on past rave reviews, translations in double-figures, even a couple of best-sellers. This was a new venture. The journey was further complicated by the recession. The market-place for novels was in flux. Publishers were passing on the works of experienced novelists whom they had published before. They were looking for new voices with innovative things to say, something ‘fresh and different’. Trouble was, no one knew exactly what they wanted – some even confessed they would only know what they wanted when they read it.
After nearly thirty years of writing with a commission firmly in my files and a cheque in the bank, I was writing on spec. Scary times. I wrote in my spare time, between commissioned projects; I wondered if I was wasting my time; I was desperate for reassurance. I never show anyone my manuscripts except the professionals but at draft 2, I did make an exception and let two people see it. One of them was my husband. One evening as I sighed deeply, wondering if it would ever get published – he said, without looking up from his book: ‘It’ll definitely get published’. He doesn’t hold back when he’s asked for an honest opinion so he must have believed in my book. Suddenly, so did I.
My agent, Toby Eady, suggested sending it to Pan Macmillan, India. The book is set in India and he thought Indian publishers would be less fazed with its uninhibited look at Indian communities and regions and ways of thinking. Then there were the many names, cultural nuances, religious differences. We’d find a publisher in the west, in the end, he said but a lot of trimming and tweaking would be required because it was outside the comfort zone of the average western publisher. Indian publishers would be familiar with the book’s intent. Toby was right. The first publisher who saw it, accepted it – Saugata Mukherjee, then publisher of Picador. Soon I discovered that several top British authors such as Geoffrey Archer launch their books in India because of its massive English-reading population. Well, what can please a writer more than the prospect of an abundant readership. But that whole topic is the subject of a future blog.
So the novel a Restless Wind, is being released in India and the South Asian territories in mid-August and I’ll probably fly out in the winter to further promote it at some of the Indian book festivals.
For now, I can just about believe it’s happened. And I’m thrilled to be feeling all the excitement a new author might feel, even though the publication fo every book to date has felt like a privilege.