The Sultan’s Eyes: out now in US

I’m delighted to announce that The Sultan’s Eyes is out in the US in December 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

I wish I could send every book out into the world with the Preface from Act of Faith, and I suppose in some ways I do:

Dear Reader,

This book you hold is a treasure, of sorts, as is every book I have ever known.

I have made it for you – especially you – for reasons you will understand as my words unfurl before your eyes.

Turn these pages tenderly.

You hold my life in your hands.

Isabella Hawkins

Venice

1647

Image of book cover

Praise for The Sultan’s Eyes:

“Through the eyes of the books’ impulsive and curious heroine … readers experience everyday life in the seventeenth century first in Venice, then in the capital of the Ottoman Empire. In addition to being an amusing and gripping adventure story, this ambitious novel also discusses questions of gender inequality, religion, philosophy, and politics.”

– International Youth Library, White Ravens 2014

Biting nails

And now we enter into the most anxious weeks of any writer’s life: release time. I don’t know any writers who don’t feel nervous, sleepless, perhaps fretful, just before a new book comes out. Maybe once you’ve written dozens of books, you feel a bit more blasé. But this is number seven, and I never get used to it. There’s nothing more I can do, nothing to be corrected or changed – it’s printed, and being packed in boxes to be delivered in the next week or so. If it were possible to both cross my fingers and bite my nails at the same time, I’d do that. Why?

Goddess, my novel based on the life of Julie d’Aubigny (Mademoiselle de Maupin), hits the bookshops in a few weeks. After four years of thinking and researching and writing and listening to La Maupin’s voice in my head, her story is ready to be heard. Again.

There are other versions of her life, of course, especially in French. She has been portrayed on screen and stage, and is a her own meme  –  the tag #julied’aubigny on either tumblr or twitter  will reveal new people discovering her story every week. So often I see people exclaim: how is it I’ve never heard of this swordfighting, opera singing, badass woman? Where has she been all my life? Why isn’t she more famous?

The truth is that she has been very famous, on and off, in her lifetime and beyond. She will be again, I have no doubt.

She has been vilified and acclaimed, and she has scandalised and amazed people and still does, hundreds of years after her death.

I do hope you like my version of her story, of her voice. Here she is.

 

 

Image of book cover - Goddes

 

 

 

Multifunction machines

Remember the fax? Remember how amazing it was that you could expect an answer from someone anywhere in the country (let alone overseas) within 24 hours? Wow.

Who owns a fax now? Talk about instant obsolescence. I haven’t sent a fax in years, and if I ever have, it’s been from my desktop PC or from a machine that is really a printer and photocopier.

I have an ereader. An early model Kobo. It doesn’t do anything fancy. You just read stuff.

When I say “early model”, I mean it’s about three years old. Maybe four. And it’s already gone the way of the fax machine, because almost immediately after it came out, the new ranges of ereaders and the tablets appeared, on which you can not only read stuff but also highlight, annotate, flick pages, interact, play music, and make toast. Well, maybe not the toast, but that’s not far off.

I should get a new ereader or a tablet, I know. But I waver between early adopter and conservative purchaser. I like that my Kobo isn’t backlit, because after a day of staring at a screen it gives my eyes a rest. I also have a little netbook instead of a tablet, because what I mostly do is type, and there are things about an iPad that don’t suit me and my needs. Yet.

It’s clear to me that the tablets, ereaders and netbooks are in a transitional phase, and as a poverty-stricken writer (well, not quite, but I’m only on a part-time wage) I don’t upgrade my hardware every year or so just to keep up.

So I’m happy to wait for the next round of devices that bring those elements together properly. It’s not far away. Just this week, Kobo has announced a partnership with Google Play to provide access to apps and games though its Vox tablet. And Microsoft is expected to announce a deal with Barnes and Noble melding the Xbox and an ereader/tablet. There are already millions of book and literacy apps for iPad/iPhone and Android that explore new territories in interactive reading and gaming.

But apart from the reading devices and platforms, one of the issues that I think is huge for publishing and for writers is the issue of territorial rights in the  digital era. The sector has been (rightly) banging on endlessly about royalty percentages and the impact of digital on what is often more about printing – not publishing as such. I’ve long thought that the real impact on publishing models would be on rights.

Traditionally, a publisher buys the rights to a book for specific regions such as the US, UK, or Australia/New Zealand – or world rights, with translations into languages other than the original being dealt with separately. But digital publishing makes a nonsense of territories. Who cares what rights you’ve bought or sold, when readers can order your ebook from any retailer they prefer, based anywhere in the world?

And now one of my publishers, HarperCollins, has announced a new venture called HarperCollins360, which aims to “make each HC title available in all English-language markets, when the necessary rights are held”.

I don’t know yet what the business model is, what it means for existing contracts. I don’t know how much will be based on POD (print on demand) and ebooks, which could threaten some authors’ deals for territories other than their own. Every transnational publisher must be thinking along similar lines, and that may hold implications for smaller local publishers which work the international rights deals. So there will be many issues to thrash out in the industry, and I’m sure the Australian Society of Authors, agents, SPUNC and others will be right in there.

But I do know I’ve been held back in the past from being distributed in some key markets because of territorial rights – the Swashbuckler books, for example, couldn’t be sold in Malta, where they are set, because Malta is technically part of the UK territory, and HarperCollins UK didn’t have rights to publish them. I’ve always wondered whether India and the many Asian countries with large English-speaking populations are under-developed markets for Australian writers. Everyone gets so focused on selling into the US and UK – but what about Canada and South Africa? I can see great possibilities in a more global approach. It makes sense, and also helps break down all those subconscious post-colonial obsessions with approval from the mother country or the Americans. Haven’t made it unless you’ve got a review in the New York Times? How about the Times of India?

So, as with ereaders, I’ll be watching and reading and talking and keeping up to date – and possibly waiting for the dust to settle. Will I be an early adopter or a conservative? We’ll see.