The Great God Pan (Mac)

by M.J. Hearle

One month on and Winter’s Shadow is selling well. Not Harry Potter well but not too bad for a first novel. I’m a little disappointed it hasn’t rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists but its early days yet and my expectations were probably a little unrealistic (at least 100,000 copies sold in the first week). Alas, being a dreamer is an occupational hazard. The important thing is people are enjoying the book. Some are even loving it. I’ve been genuinely touched by some of the passionate emails I’ve received from readers.

Speaking about passion, check out this amazing giveaway over at Paranormal Wastelands. Darkfallen and Greta have been massive supporters of the book and have even gone to the trouble of re-creating Blake’s lodestone to include in the book giveaway. Great stuff! If you’re in the US (or Canada or Europe) and interested in reading the novel Paranormal Wastelands has organised a blog tour. Unless you order Winter’s Shadow from Oz, the tour is currently the only chance to get your hands on the book as I haven’t yet scored a US publishing deal (hint, hint US publishers – get your butts into gear!).

A lot of the emails I’ve been sent over the past month have included questions about the sequel –namely will there be one? The answer is yes. In fact, I’ve just finished the first draft and popped it in the post for my agent to review. Fans of Winter’s Shadow will be pleasantly surprised (I hope), maybe even a little shocked at the turns Winter’s story has taken. I know I certainly was.

The title is somewhat misleading, as Winter’s Light is actually a lot darker than its predecessor. When I was writing Winter’s Shadow, I felt a little beholden to the YA Paranormal Romances that had come before me. The sequel, however, is entirely its own animal (with much sharper teeth) and moves at a much faster pace. We learn more about the Dead Lands, about the Demori, the Black Mirror, the Skivers, and of course Winter and Blake. I’ve become a better writer over the past year, even if the act itself is still as hard as its ever been.

About to embark on the editorial process all over again, I thought it might be interesting to revisit my first experience with a publisher. If nothing else it will help refresh my memory and prepare for what lies ahead. So, lets pick up where we left off, I’d just signed to a literary agent (which you can read about here) and been through the editorial process with her to whip the manuscript into shape.

A month or so after Sue sent the book out to prospective publishers, I was in a bit of dark place. I’d just been fired from a freelance graphic design job for being too slow which had sent me spiralling into a minor depression. The reason I was too slow was because I’d jumped straight back into a relatively senior position after taking six months off to write the book. To say I was rusty was an understatement. Unfortunately, when people are paying you by the hour they don’t care that you’re rusty. They just fire you. Such, is the lot of a freelancer.

Anyway, so there I was sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, questioning my direction in life, eating Milo out of the tin with a spoon (hey! I was depressed!) when I received the call.

‘Hey, Mike what are you doing tomorrow?’

I quickly ran through tomorrow’s itinerary in my head. It was comprised mostly of me brooding and beating myself up – both pursuits, I could easily skip.

‘Nothing. Why?’

‘Would you be available to meet with some people from Pan Macmillan?’

I didn’t know much about publishing but I had a feeling Pan Macmillan were big wigs in the industry. ‘Um…yeah, sure!’

‘Great. Wear something nice.’

And so with one phone call my spirits, which had been pooling somewhere beneath my left toenail, had been lifted and I was no longer feeling like the world’s biggest loser. Losers don’t get meetings at Pan Macmillan!

The next day, I nervously rode the lift with my agent up to the Pan Macmillan offices, where I was met by the delightful Alice (not her real name) and Sarah (not her real name either). Both had read my manuscript and wanted to meet the author behind it. Unfortunately, gone are the days when an author could be a jabbering recluse, madly typing away in his hermitage, a figure of mystery and local gossip. Don’t get me wrong, the words are still the most important thing, but if a publisher is going to take a gamble on an untried talent it certainly helps if you’re presentable. This doesn’t mean you have to be Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie – just able to smile and carry on a conversation without devolving into a series of nervous tics and wild-eyed stares.

Ushered into Sarah’s office I was gently interviewed about my professional writing experience (limited to say the least), what inspired me to write the book in the first place and some of the specifics about the new supernatural mythology I’d introduced. Luckily, I’d spent some time preparing for such questions as I’d already been through a similar interrogation with my agent. If you ever find yourself in a similar position, a meeting with a publisher, I suggest knowing your story inside out, character motivations, themes, ideas for sequels etc. Publishers are a little wary of investing in authors who don’t seem to understand their own material. Who can blame them?

So I answered the questions as best I could, smiled as much as possible and generally tried to be a more charming version of my usual monosyllabic self. I pitched them a second novel, which continued Winter’s story, and a possible third – even though these two books were little more than amoebas swimming around the primordial soup of my imagination. After the meeting, my agent told me she had a good feeling about my chances, but told me not to break out the champagne just yet. A meeting was great – closer to publication than many aspiring writers get – but a meeting was not a book deal.

Ah…a book deal. Is there anything more wonderful or elusive to the newbie writer?

So I went back to my life as a freelance graphic designer, spending the next few weeks frantically trying not to get fired again and hoping against hope that I had some sort of future that didn’t involve me staring at mobile mobile phone press ads trying to make them pretty.

The phone call came while I was working on one such ad. There I was deliberating over whether or not to use Helvetica or Futura as the headline font when my phone started vibrating in my pocket, shocking me like a cattle prod. It was Sue. Pan Macmillan wanted to sign me to a two book deal. Now, she let me know, would be a fine time to break out the champagne. Hanging up the phone, a slow, astonished smile spread across my face. I was going to be a published author. In a little more than six months Winter’s Shadow would be on bookshelves. First though, it needed to be tidied, molded, trimmed, made presentable – basically, polished into a real book.

However, before we could even start this lengthy and laborious process there was one small matter my new publishers wanted me to address – the title.

I had to change the title.