I was roaming the aisles of Akademibokhandeln the other day, a large chain bookshop here in Sweden and came across a narrow section of English books. At eye level, staring nearly right through me was the blockbuster hit “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. Suddenly, everything in the shop disappeared and I was alone with this beast I couldn’t take my eyes off. Flynn’s incredible talent snagged me from the first sentence. When I feared the manager might approach me to buy or leave, something that would never happen in Sweden, I decided to investigate the author a little further once I got home. Her personal story is wonderful, not really unlike mine in ways. Okay, she’s actually sold a book, or two, or three – million, but who’s counting? The world is, that’s who.
When I washed away the curtain of success that is surrounding Gillian Flynn, what was left was the skeleton, the bones of her personal story—a story that began with trial and error—a story that began with writing. Not just writing one or two books but several, some of which faded into oblivion but far from nothingness. Every time she put pen to paper, or in today’s world, fingers to keyboard, she paved her training ground, another layer each time. She honed her skills just that little bit more. All of it, without knowing I’m sure, was in preparation for her debut novel, “Sharp Objects”.
She wrote what was familiar in the beginning, but it wasn’t until she had a sleepover with Dennis Lehane’s “Mystic River”, that everything fell into place. How is that different from me? I asked myself. The answer was simple. It’s no different at all. When the time was right, “Mystic River” came looking for Gillian Flynn. When the time was right, my grandmother’s poems came looking for me. And so it began, my great journey into a world of new characters for me, a world that still leaves me breathless every now and again when I read and re-read what my pen swirled on the page. Forget about keyboards, they sound too mechanical for the gorgeous process of writing fiction. Shhh, the world doesn’t need to know just how mechanical, laborious and utterly grueling writing can really be.
I thought about Flynn’s exposure, something absolutely key in this industry. I know of her staggering sales just weeks after releasing her debut, but I have no idea how many she reached before the release. I have nothing to compare to. I have only my website. Yes, there’s a huge difference between a mass market book like hers and one written for a particular niche, my baby, my historical women’s fiction. But what I can say is that since I launched this website last month, it has been viewed in twenty-three countries, the flags representing those places above, with nearly four thousand views. Maybe that is nothing in this industry but it is anything but nothing to me. It is staggering to me, staggering to know that people from other countries have viewed my site. It is humbling in this world of mass market this and mass market that to think that my book can squeeze in there somewhere.
Recently, some advance praise came from fellow authors in the United States for Gillian Pugsley, authors who are fighting for their work just as much as the next author. I am honoured that they not only took the time to read my advance reading copy, but that they have endorsed it with such finesse and conviction. Readers will find their comments on my site’s homepage.
My grandmother’s poems didn’t just fall into my lap, they were given to me to share in a way that would make her proud, and I think that I have achieved that with this book.
“The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley” is far from “Gone Girl”, but the skeleton, those bones that rattle underneath the pages of even the top bestsellers is there. What’s more, I am proud to say that I have layered those bones with the meat of an exquisite love story. I hope you will agree.