To the Kydd Gang!
With the publication this week of Tyger, the 16th Kydd title, Kathy and I will raise a glass (or two…) to all the publishing professionals it’s been our pleasure to work with over the past decade and a half. As my eponymous hero would say, ‘Let’s drink their health in a bumper!’
The Belgian novelist Georges Simenon once complained: ‘writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness’. I certainly haven’t found that to be the case! It’s been one of the most fulfilling times of my life. I’ve met some great people – real and imaginary along the way…
Way back when
But let’s wind the clock back to the late nineties when I’d just completed work on a pretty stressful NATO project. I sank into my armchair and Kathy shoved a tumbler of whisky into my hand. ‘Sweetheart,’ she said, ‘Get a life!’ It was she who started me off as an author – without a single published work to my name, she felt that somehow inside I was a writer (something I didn’t know at the time) and it was she who persuaded me to give away the systems analysis and take a part-time job at the local college. The rest of the time I devoted to learning the nuts and bolts of the craft – and finding a voice.
For me there could be only one subject – the sea. There’s something primaeval, powerful, constantly fascinating about the sea. As far back as I can remember I’ve been mesmerised. Going to a decent grammar school was unfortunately wasted on me: I dreamed all the time, and off to school on the school bus had me staring at these sleek low grey shapes, slipping over the horizon and carrying my imagination with them.
On a wing and a prayer…I know I’m extremely fortunate to have an agent of Carole Blake’s stature representing me. I sent my submission for Kydd off to Carole on the first day of the new millennium on a wing and a prayer. Just a little aside here: one of the things you had to do with book submissions in those pre-email days was to print out the entire book and secure it – horizontally and vertically – with rubber bands. Have you ever tried finding rubber bands that are big enough to do that? We ended up having to go to a specialist stationery store and buy a box of them. Enough rubber bands for 100 books!
Now Carole and the two of us are friends, as well as having an excellent working relationship. With 52 years in the business Carole is a force to be reckoned with – tardy publishers and errant authors beware!
Nelson’s blood in the board room
I remember the ‘beauty parades’ that Carole organised when an auction for the series started. (That is where the author meets a number of publishers who are keen to buy his book/s.) One thing that impressed us about Hodder & Stoughton was what we saw on the centre of the table when we entered the board room – a bottle of rum! Kathy and I looked at each other and smiled. A pretty good start for what has become a happy long-term relationship.
Oliver & Hazel & LarryWith each new manuscript there’s a set sequence of events. Firstly, my commissioning editor Oliver Johnson takes his blue pencil to the book (metaphorically speaking – editing is all done electronically these days) on a macro level and comes back with a number of queries or suggestions. Once these have been addressed, and any revisions agreed, the book is passed to my copy editor Hazel Orme who goes through on a micro level to check spelling consistencies, grammar, factual claims – or anything that she feels needs making clearer etc. Editorial advice is always offered but never forced on the writer. My strong belief is that every editorial query, suggestion etc. must be taken very seriously. Oliver brings many years’ publishing experience to the table and I’m very fortunate that Hazel’s been with the series right from the start, and is recognised as one of the best in the business!
A few books back the decision was taken by Hodder to move to cgi (computer generated image) covers and I’m delighted with the work of Larry Rostant in bringing a fresh and vital feel to the books.
I’ve been extremely lucky in both my agent and in my publishers. There are many people who’ve contributed to the launch of Tyger; space precludes my thanking them all here – but I know I will feel both proud and humbled when I see Tyger in the bookstores this week as I couldn’t have done it without them.
Here’s to the Kydd Gang!
Carole Blake photograph: Jack Ladenburg
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