Saturday, 16 February 2008

Book Covers

As always, the book-cover departments of Sphere (UK) and Berkley (USA) have done me proud. Though the images on the jacket of Under a Blood Red Sky (UK) and The Red Scarf (USA) are very different, both are very striking. Both should jump out at you on the bookstore shelves.

I have the two covers pinned up in my study and I try to look at them objectively, but fail. Instead I see my characters moving through the scenes depicted. I hear their voices and smell the Russian pine forests or catch the sound of St Petersburg's church bells.

When you have spent months, even years, creating the world in your book, sometimes it's hard to let it go.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Disaster and Delight

February started with a disaster.

My computer crashed. Those are the three words every writer dreads. But because I am totally paranoid about losing material and don't trust myself not to wipe my whole world off the hardrive with the touch of a wrong button, I back up everything of importance.

So the new book is safe. Sighs of relief. That's the good part. The bad part is that I have wasted hours and hours on the stupid machine and eventually we parted company with much ill feeling!

Despite that setback, progress on The Red Scarf/Under a Blood Red Sky is steaming ahead. In January both Berkley (USA) and Sphere (UK) provided copyedited manuscripts for me to check through. This is a process some writers regard as tedious, but I actually enjoy it. After so many months away from it, working on other projects, it is interesting to return to the book with fresh eyes - and with a big fat red pen.

This was my last chance to alter anything before it is set in stone for the printer. So I took my time trimming and tightening. I defy any author to read his/her own work without wanting to alter something - even when it's the final published book in their hands. But at some point you have to say Okay, that's enough, and hand it all over to the publisher who, by this time, has a tight schedule to lock it into.

That's when your work stops and your publisher's work starts. So I am eager to hear initial responses from sales force etc as the finished book passes through more hands prior to publication.

This is when the excitement begins to build - and the nerves kick in!

Friday, 1 February 2008

My Next Book

2008 is well under way now, so it's time to talk about my new book which will be published this year.

It's called The Red Scarf in America and Under a Blood Red Sky in the UK.

The reason for this is that my two publishers couldn't agree on one title. Apparently it's quite a common occurrence - look at the great Phillip Pullman with Northern Lights also called The Golden Compass. Annoying for an author? My lips are sealed.

Let me say first that my new book is not a sequel to The Russian Concubine. That one is coming out next year, in 2009. But The Red Scarf/Under a Blood Red Sky is also a sweeping epic story. It is set in Stalin's Russia in 1933. At its heart is an intense love story but it is also driven by the powerful bonds of friendship between two young women, Sofia and Anna. It is a mix of tsarist glamour, gulag suffering and rural life in a Urals village which Stalin's fist is slowly squeezing ever tighter. In this book I explore the extraordinary strength of the human spirit and tell a story of love, escape, revenge and redemption.

The Red Scarf will be published in June 2008 in the USA. Under a Blood Red Sky will be published in November 2008 in the UK. I'm very excited about it.