Ahead of lockdown as people who can’t work from home (or get paid not-to-work) began to panic – a friend suggested I might attempt establishing a Patreon site – which has been good fun and a success per se – but also with some unexpected upsides – such as this week, when one of my subscribers published her debut novel.
What Heals the Heart by Jen Telger – and reading the reviews (all positive) – I am heartened to see names that I recognise – people from across the world who have met through my Patreon – an upside of the internet and how it can foster community.
Following Jen’s publication process has been both exciting and insightful – a way to highlight my own publishing shortcomings. I owe much to Jen because it was she, who politely expressed her exasperation at my hapless skills. And how correct she was. Now, after an online course, I am making some belated progress with Only in America – and the same love will be applied to my other books also.
And on this, yesterday, Nikki finally made a start on my new novel, Made in England – a read which carries much pressure and is something I might have been subconsciously avoiding. But with the publication date set (July 3rd), it’s an important read because I trust Nikki’s opinion.
I might even say that she has great taste – but for the notion that this might sound conceited – and that she might have some obvious blind spots when it comes to what she likes.
Anyway, for the first time in at least a decade, yesterday I had two gigs (both in a suit) – one on a river barge and the other in a 5-star-hotel and this was enough to distract me and keep me from wondering whether Milly’s new adventure is resonating or not.
Like ships in the night, I got home very late (Nikki asleep) and the next morning, Nikki is out early (I’m asleep) for a dog walk with Tess, the only Holland who-can-do-no-wrong – and home alone, I noted the novel in our kitchen and I could not help myself.
Handling the book, I wondered if I can determine how much she has read? You know, the creases on the spine or a dog-eared page…
This is accomplished with ease because there are a litany of folded down pages – which is not a good sign and and my typo blindness comes to mind.
Although, on this affliction, I am not alone, since the manuscript of MIE was proofed by a young chap who read English at the august Oxford University. That said, reading Dominic Holland is a wholly different proposition to reading the classics, and it appears that the bound proof of Made in England is strewn with errors. Errors which will enrage readers and confine the book to amateur status – and a good thing then, that I have time to make the necessary corrections.
Albeit there is no time to rewrite the novel, should it get a thumbs down from Mrs H – because honesty is key and especially for something I am putting out in to the world. And further pressure because it’s a sequel to the much loved, Only in America, a book Nikki had such a bearing on, insisting on a female lead and it becoming a love story.
Later in the morning, when Nikki and Tess return from their walk, I enquire (as I always do) if Tess did a pooh but I don’t mention the book. Too needy? Better to just wait…
I don’t have to wait long.
‘Dom, your book, it’s full of typos…’
I don’t give myself away – that I know this already and I wait patiently for her verdict so far.
‘…but I love it. God, it’s so refreshing to read a book that is readable…’
Somehow, Nikki belongs to a high-brow book club – which seems to be utter purgatory to me. Miserable, bleak tomes that are dense and difficult to read.
My books are the antithesis of this.
Milly and Jonson’s new adventure in Made in England will not trouble any awards panels and who cares? Like my stand-up is supposed to be funny – my books are supposed to be readable. Made in England might not be as strong a story as Only in America but I hope it is a worthy successor. Quirky, comic, compelling and a story that is worth reading.
It’s been an interesting novel to complete – since I wrote it on Patreon, publishing chapters as I completed them – and taking feedback and ideas from my readers – and Jen Telger very much included.
And finally to her novel, What Heals the Heart – a book I have only half-completed as a PDF – but now that my paperback copy has arrived, I am excited to rip through it. Jenny writes effortlessly and this novel (like most debuts) is about what she knows and I am delighted to be able to commend it to everyone looking for a warm escape.
By seeing her project through, Jenny has now entered a world of extreme exposure and this can be an uncomfortable experience. She will be glued to her sales dashboards. Hanging on every single sale and coveting affirmation from anonymous readers. The novel deserves to fly and I hope that it does.
As the saying goes, everyone has a novel in them – but completing one and getting it out there takes some courage and requires much hope and faith.
That said, I thoroughly recommend it. Better to try and fail than not to…
Because there is nothing better than endeavour and trying to confound the odds. Such a thing is the very essence of being alive. Being out there and available is surely the best place to be and whatever the outcome.
What Heals the Heart is available to buy now online
Made in England is published on July 3rd and can be pre-ordered now.