February 2nd, 2011



When I started writing, I read lots of advice about it. Mostly, like a lot of authors starting out, I was looking for that piece of advice wherein the secret back door was opened and instant publication and riches would be mine.

Of course, none of them said that. What most said were, read books, keep submitting, don't take rejections personally, and get a day job. They also said one thing that, really, it has taken a while for me to fully appreciate, and that is that perseverance is what wins out in the end. I got to thinking about that this morning, mostly because my mind has just been turning over that subject for the last few days. But what I realised was that a lot of authors who began around the time I did have, for good or bad, disappeared. It could be that they're writing under different names, aren't the current flavour of the month, whatever, but a lot have disappeared into obscurity and have been forgotten. I've known friends who give it up, too. They give it up because it is too much time, because they have a family, because the money of, oh, anything, really, is better. They give it up, really, because they don't get the instant publication and riches, and realise that they may never.

Which is why, I guess, authors do say that perseverance is rewarded. The author Brendan Connell has spent a long time pushing his fiction, which hasn't always gathered mass appeal. Yet, he is still there, producing fine books like Metrophilias and with a collection of Dr Black short stories (if I remember rightly) coming out from PS Publishing at the end of this year. He's a fine writer, and its not an easy road that he travels for his work to reach people, but he does, and the work is released, and if you're one of the people who digs his work, you're grateful for the work he puts in, and his dedication to it.

Yet, as I was thinking about this topic, the author I came back to the most, the one who to me sucked up the bad times and pushed through them, and the one who should stand as an example for new authors, was Tansy Rayner Roberts. Roberts, if you don't know her, started publication by winning the first George Turner Award for best unpublished manuscript in 1998. The book was published by Bantam, a mainstream publisher, and she got a chunk of cash. Roberts' book was Splashdance Silver, a humourist fantasy that had the unfortunate fate of being packaged entirely like Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, therefor ensuring that it looked like a cheap knock off. It was a pretty roughly written book, too, and its follow up didn't generate much buzz and the joy of being in mainstream press and all that comes with it (for good or worse) ended. If I remember right, Roberts herself mentioned some of the hard times that followed included being told that she no longer had an agent by someone other than her agent. For a good bit of time after that, Roberts was pretty unheard of, and if you ask any author, they will tell you that it's hard after such event to get back into the mainstream publishers and continue selling, though it is something that Roberts has done with her Creature Court trilogy, the first book which was released through Harpercollins last year. In addition to that, she's built herself up a respectable reputation as a literate feminist author in the independent press here, as well as a reviewer for the Last Short Story crew.

It's twelve years between Splashdance Silver and Power and Majesty for Roberts, and that's a lot of time spent working to rebuild, working on craft, working on the direction she wants to take, a lot of time spent working with the ups and downs, of basically persevering and surviving the publication roller coaster. Even if what she writes isn't to your taste, you can't ignore the fact that she's still here, when many others would have packed it in, and if you're just starting out, there's a lesson in there for you, really.