It’s here! It’s arrived! I’ve got it in my hands! I have become an author, with a new book just ready and waiting to hit the world on April 2 (kind of glad, it’s not the day before).
But best of all, my publishers Summersdale have done an absolutely superb job of it.
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I’m going to make an exception for this one – partly because I have read it so many times I am not quite ready to read it again yet.
Keep On Running http://www.summersdale.com/book/2/569/keep-on-running/, the story of my love of marathon-running and all the pain and pleasure it has brought me, looks and feels great.
The little package was waiting for me when I got back from work on Friday; I knew what it was from the postmark; I opened it with a little trepidation, just wondering what that crucial first impression (by which we judge everything these days) was going to be.
Out the book tumbled – and what a relief. I loved it. A relief indeed because I had never been totally convinced by the cover. But I am now. Leaving aside the words inside, it looks terrific – a complete vindication of the design that Summersdale came up with.
The cover – and I love the colour scheme – sums up precisely the kind of semi-serious, funny and upbeat book I was intending. If I saw it on a shelf, I’d definitely want to read it (and I can say that because the look is Summersdale’s, not mine).
With publication day – or “pub day” as Summersdale far more suggestively call it – just a couple of weeks away, I feel I am entering the home straight in the best possible hands, the final few miles of a journey which began several years ago.
I was convinced I was a gruesome-crime writer and had chatted to the lovely Peter Lovesey about a very gruesome murder mystery I’d written which languishes still unpublished.
Peter, for some years now a Chichester resident, is the creator of the terrific Peter Diamond Bath detective series (http://peterlovesey.com/), and he gave me every encouragement in my own efforts .
But more importantly he suggested I write about the marathons I was regularly running – a suggestion which initially didn’t appeal. Or rather, a suggestion which needed to take root first. It lodged in the back of my mind, and it was a couple of years later that I was ready to do the deed.
It was October 2010; I was on the plane on the way back from the Mallorca Marathon, and Peter’s idea just wouldn’t leave me alone. The flight passed in a flash. By the time we touched down, the book was written in my mind. A couple of weeks later, it was ready on the computer.
Or so I thought.
I approached Summersdale Publishers in Chichester (the city where I work), and they were instantly encouraging and quickly agreed to take on the project.
But Jennifer, my first editor there, broke it to me gently that the book wasn’t there yet. I had written five ways to lash up a marathon, followed by five ways to get it right. It was funny, she said, but the disasters would see the readers dropping by the roadside before they ever reached the successes.
Jennifer encouraged a chronological approach, and that was the moment the book clicked.
Abbie then took on the editing – and proved a godsend. She’s got the loveliest, sweetest, most encouraging personality, but behind it is the surest of instincts, and I knew from the start that whatever she suggested I could trust in implicitly.
Not too many people are allowed to point out where it’s my anorak, and not me, speaking – but Abbie did so, to the huge benefit of the book. Between them, Jennifer and Abbie urged me to tone down the endless stats. I hope the final product now feels more much human.
And then it was over to copy-editor Ray, to whom my debt runs deep. The trouble with slipping in the odd idiocy is that you (or at least, I) don’t notice it. Ray does. Each and every one. No, kilometres don’t (and can’t) “inch up”; there’s a big difference between “mitigate” and “militate”; and you can’t say that Rome is “clearly polluted” given that pollution by definition is always going to be at least a bit murky.
After that it was back to Abbie for the joint process of picking the photographs which now grace the inside of the front and back cover – again, an important element. Again, I hope that they stress this isn’t a pompous “how to do it” book. No, it’s a friendly, light-hearted look at the experience of marathon-running itself, how it feels, why we push ourselves, why we enjoy it even when we are hating it.
So, as you can see, along the way, it’s all been a deliciously-collaborative process – not least in the help I have had from my fellow marathon-runner and father-in-law Michael who read the first drafts and firmly but very constructively pointed me away from many of the pitfalls I was falling into. This book is about marathon-running, but my hope is that it is marathon-running viewed from a very much wider perspective. Michael’s comments very helpfully pointed me in that direction.
And so here we are then.
My wife Fiona has very nearly finished reading the book, and believe me, it’s a strange experience to glance at the person lying in bed next to you and see them reading a book you have written. You lie there waiting for the laughs and suppressing all the “did you like that bit?” questions.
And the good news is that she is loving it – even though she’s read it almost as many times as I have.
I hadn’t realised that a book would involve the support and input of so many people; but, then again, anything that’s worth doing in life is inevitably something that brings people together.
And in the preparation of Keep On Running, I have been blessed with the very best team possible. The A team. There are no mid-packers here. We are front-runners one and all, and I hope you will join us when the book comes out.
Make a date with Keep On Running on April 2.
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