Once I had a wonderful agent, and the agent sent out my earlier novel The Dangerous Edge of Things, or, as it was known then, I Still Miss Someone. Here’s the email she sent out with the book, and some of the responses:
Dear Y (various publishers),
As promised, I am delighted to send you I Still Miss Someone, James Ferron Anderson’s powerful first novel.
I Still Miss Someone is about Turlough Barr, a young Protestant man growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who escapes to England where he finds that the fear and violence of his past pursue him still.
I Still Miss Someone is a novel that has a great deal to say about the effects of growing up in a world filled with terrorism in all its forms – hatred, bigotry, ignorance, fear and violence – but it is also a story about the need and search for love, and the enduring effects of having experienced it at least for a little while, as Turlough Barr does with his loving but ineffectual Uncle Billy.
I am enormously impressed by James’s writing, and I think his first novel is full of a generous understanding of our flawed humanity. I hope you will want to be his UK publisher. Rights on offer are UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada). This is a multiple submission and I look forward to hearing from you no later than Wednesday the 11th of July.
The agent got back:
Dear X (my agent),
Thank you for this. This is beautifully written as you say – and I loved the idiomatic dialogue — but I’m afraid I didn’t fall for the book as a whole. I’m sorry.
Clara Farmer, Editorial Director,
Chatto & Windus, The Random House Group Ltd
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
And again: Dear X,
Many thanks for this. I thought it a highly thoughtful and powerful novel and was impressed by it as a debut, but I also had a number of reservations about it – about the actual writing, sometimes the dialogue and the way in which the book tends so much to be told from outside Turlough/John Lee’s head – and on balance, after some indecision, I have, I’m afraid, decided to pass.
I am sorry not to feel able to respond more positively.
Ravi Mirchandani, Grove Atlantic
And again: Dear X,
I wanted to get back to you about your great young Irish hope, James Anderson.
I found his writing was incredibly memorable and intense. The dialogue was an especial treat and reminded me at times of Maria Hyland’s Eire-set Carry Me Down. What I liked less about it was the confusion as to where the narrative present was. The disjointedness is perhaps one if its charms but I must admit that I wasn’t completely swept away by the story, and on that basis I think it is not one for us to try and acquire.
As ever, such a matter of personal taste. Ain’t it always!
I was so pleased to see this come in and I love reading this sort of brave new voice. Thanks for sending and good luck finding the right editor.
Francis Bickmore, Senior Editor, Fiction, Canongate Books
I can’t remember whose feedback was: “Unrelentingly depressing.” But there was plenty in that vein.
It’s been more than renamed. It’s been rewritten. And, I’d guess, I hope, still unrelentingly depressing. You can buy it on Amazon. Go break a leg.
James Ferron Anderson