If writers these days are lucky enough to get published the deal is often for two or more books, which sounds great, doesn’t it? The publisher isn’t afraid you might be a one hit wonder, they actually believe you’ve got what it takes to be a bona fide author. But what if you spent years writing your first book? How enjoyable would it be to write a second one when you’re up against a deadline? Not very, I would think.
As someone whose novel is only just edging towards completion after several years on and off behind the keyboard, I feel a lot better about my slow progress when I read about authors who aren’t any more prolific than I am.
Donna Tartt took ten years to write The Little Friend after her successful debut The Secret History, and another eleven years after that to complete her third book, The Goldfinch. In an interview she said that she couldn’t “think of anything worse than having to turn out a book every year. It would be hell.”
Canadian author, Mary Lawson, spent five years writing her first novel and then it failed to find a publisher. Her second novel, Crow Lake, also took five years to write and suffered four years of rejections before finally being accepted for publication. In an interview to promote her latest book, Road Ends, Mary said: “I had a two-book deal after Crow Lake, but I never thought I would write a third novel. I find getting the idea for a book very hard. It has taken me almost seven years to write Road Ends. Ideas just do not come easily to me. And then when they do, I rewrite constantly, revising line by line.”
And finally, Rachel Kushner said it took her two years just to write the first chapter of her book The Flamethrowers. “It was just a matter of trying and trying and trying – and deep patience.”
For those of us who can’t write a book a year, or who wouldn’t want to, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone.