The writing world has been all a twitter (literally, in some cases) about the success of Ruth Saberton’s debut novel Katy Carter Wants a Hero. While the book itself has received positive views and scaled the Amazon rankings like a Sherpa, it’s the tale of the book’s birth that has been capturing the headlines.
The Sun newspaper declared that the author had left her manuscript on Richard & Judy’s doorstep, at their Cornish country house. The BBC offers a slightly more plausible version, that Ruth Saberton’s mother runs the village shop and passed the book to R & J at the till. What followed is the stuff of writers’ dreams. The couple read the book that day and loved it. So much so that Richard Madeley recommended it and Orion snapped it up and brought it to print.
Some would call Katy Carter Wants a Hero contemporary fiction and others would label it chick-lit. And no doubt there’ll be a chorus of ‘it’s not what you know but who you knows’ around the writing community. But the salient points here are that Ruth has written a book which, whether celebrity endorsed or not, Orion thought was worthy of publication.
Personally, I wish Ruth Saberton well. She has played a good hand – firstly in writing a commercially viable book and secondly is using the resources and opportunities at her disposal. And it has all paid off beautifully. It’s a timely reminder that life is a competition and the arts especially so. Finding a competitive advantage is just part and parcel of the game.
Many writers I know shy away from the business end of the writing experience. Or maybe it’s a peculiarly British thing, like the tendency to play down any success. “What, this old masterpiece? Well I suppose it could be a good read but let’s talk about something else.” Aside from being a maddening trait, it serves little useful purpose other than to protect us from the severity of critics.
And yet, W H Auden was critical of Tennyson, Elizabeth Bowen of Aldous Huxley and George Eliot of Charlotte Bronte. It didn’t stop any of them writing and it doesn’t appear to have blighted their literary success. We writers need to be brave boys and girls; we need useful feedback about how to improve our work and what already works well. And we need to make use of any leverage we can lay our hands on. Now, where’s the address of that TV producer I used to know…