Getting Into Print Isn’t Easy
I left the island in November 2007. And drifted again. I went sailing a lot – working as delivery crew on yachts all over the world; eking out savings by wintering in India, Malaysia, Thailand; working now and again at Tŷ Newydd – a writers’ retreat in North Wales: cooking, cleaning, a lot of washing up – pandering to poets and students of various genres of writing.
And writing sometimes about the island and what the experience had meant to me. And, through the writing, figuring out – in an unconscious, subconscious way – what it was about Gavin Maxwell and the Highlands that had so obsessed me from boyhood.
I wrote other stuff, tried to write a ‘comic’ novel set in Morocco and, because I couldn’t get the island book to work, I put it away from me and turned my back on wanting to be ‘a writer’, hated writers (those liars!) and writing in general.
Then, in December 2011, in Malacca in Malaysia, looking through my laptop for something to work on, something to write, I looked again at Island of Dreams and thought: It’s almost there. . .
For some reason I decided to decamp to Krabi in Thailand, where I checked into the cheapest room in a hotel in the centre of town (it was one of two rooms at the top of the building. I think the other (these were more like cells really) was used for short-time occupancy, judging by the noises coming through the wall.) I wasn’t interested in my surroundings, in the comings and goings of the Thais and the tourists and expats and the strange, symbiotic, cynical relationship the Thais and the tourists have, and so could get into a daily routine.
I wrote and rewrote and edited. I returned to the UK in February 2012, did a final line-by-line edit and then started sending – 3 chapters and a covering letter – to agents and publishers. I figured it would be a numbers game. I got an agent six months later. The day after he agreed to take me on, I got another two rejection letters from other agents. It makes you laugh in the end.
The agent had my book for two years. Couldn’t interest a publisher in it. So, frustrated, in July 2014 I published the book as an e-book for kindle and finally said goodbye to the agent. In October 2014 I sent out another nine submissions to publishers and hooked one. Or to be precise – I hooked five, within the space of three weeks.
Odd. And wonderful.
If you want to get published, get a thick skin and understand well – none of this is personal. It’s about timing and luck as much as quality of writing. And connecting with the right editor for your work.
Here are some places* described in Island of Dreams: A Personal History of a Remarkable Place
(*These link to photos that can be used FOC by Creative Common Licence)
1. Isleornsay © Bob Jones
There’s a good pub here. It’s on the Sleat peninsula of Skye (facing the mainland). Lovely views over the Sound of Sleat. On a tidal island nearby is the other lighthouse that Gavin Maxwell owned.
2. Soay © John Allan
The site of Maxwell’s Island of Soay Shark Fisheries Ltd. Not so easy to get to. If you have a kayak you can set off from Glenbrittle Beach. Or ask around in Elgol for a fisherman with a sturdy boat to take you over to the small 8-shaped isle.
3. The Glenelg-Kylerhea Ferry © Mary & Angus Hogg
Cuts down on mileage between Kyleakin and Sandaig. . .
Originally published on the Booktrail