I have been working with my new editor for three months now, rewriting and editing my new book, The Dress. I’ve never been through such a forensic, painstaking and, at times, painful process but it has been worth it. I moved publishing houses to work with Head of Zeus' brilliant, insightful and talented editor who, among others, has worked with Maeve Binchy and the recently deceased Colleen McCollough. Even though it has been an adjustment getting into the swing of new ways of working, I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity. Working with Rosie has been a real eyeopener; challenging, rewarding - a masterclass in storytelling and fiction writing.
I told her all of this in an e-mail at the beginning of the week when I send her off my final, polished draft. All rewrites done and dusted - corrected, checked, job done. I even included my acknowledgements. After I pressed ‘send’ I collapsed. I was absolutely exhausted after a gruelling, backwards and forwards four month stint that had killed characters, created new ones, destroyed and revitalised a marriage - and that was all before I began on my atrocious spelling and grammar. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to have it over and done with. Then the text came through.
‘Very well done. Nearly there. Just a few more adjustments I feel…’ I screamed No!
‘Plus, I’m a little confused because there are three Chapter 28s but, I suspect, a couple of others missing.’
How, HOW did that even happen? This book is cursed. It is never going to be finished. Last year I left the only copy of The Dress in the back of a Dublin taxi on my new laptop. It caused a national news story here in Ireland. I became the #LostNovel lady, with Dublin’s vast taxi community and media joining forces to get it back for me. Almost twelve months later, I now cannot seem to get rid of it. It keeps bouncing back at me like some kind of a literary boomerang, belting me on the back of the head saying - go again - try harder - dig deeper. I got the train up to Dublin and collected Rosie’s couriered package from my agents office. Then I booked into my hotel. Isobel, manager at The Central on Exchequer Street, (my Dublin home-from-home), asked if I was finished the book yet. I gave her a withering look and said ’nearly’ before admiring her gorgeous new hairdo.
I had lunch, then drinks, then dinner with friends before going back to my room and tentatively opening the package just before I went to bed. Rosie works on hard copy, old school, with pencil. When I opened the envelope I saw it comprised one third of the complete manuscript; almost every page was pasted with her trademark pink-post it notes and her meticulously neat handwriting. I nearly passed out.
On the front was a purple post-it that said. ‘Please don’t have a coronary. Love R. x’
None of this would have been quite so terrifying if I had not known that the publishers needed it back urgently to submit it for some promo thing.
I took a deep breath and had a quick flick through the changes. There were loads of them. Loads. I did not know where to start. I went to bed and did not sleep a wink, then got up at six and started on the notes. For the whole day, before I left the hotel, in Heuston Station and then on the train I worked like a savage, yet I could not get past Chapter One. In a state of panic I just kept writing new material that would, effectively, throw the whole novel off kilter. I arrived up at my mothers house and begged her to take the two boys overnight so I could go home and panic in peace. ‘Get some sleep,’ she said, ‘you’re exhausted.’ So I did. Eight full hours.
On Saturday I started writing. I have never written so fast, or so diligently, or so well in my life. I did not know I had it in me. Ditto Sunday - with the help of my brilliant assistant Danielle, we got it licked. Monday, I started polishing at 4am and by lunchtime - it was gone. On deadline. I was astonished at myself.
Later that evening, I went to buy a celebrationary Magnum in the garage, and as I came back in the door, Niall handed me the phone. ‘It’s Rosie,’ he said, with a big scared it-ain’t-over-yet head on him.
‘You’ve nailed it,’ she said, ‘it’s absolutely brilliant.’
I cried. Nobody has ever pushed me harder or got more out of me than Rosie. And I told her that. She paused and said, ‘You’re worth it.’ And I cried again.
Can't wait to read it? We've got a couple of early reading proofs to give away. Simply tweet @HoZ_Books #LostNovel #TheDress to win a copy! Competition closes 10th May.