Thursday, 17 January 2008

Countdown to Caligula

Suddenly it all seems very real. Yesterday I got my first look at the artwork for the book cover and it looked fantastic. It's a really powerful piece of imagery that captures something right at the heart of the book. I thought it was a pretty macho picture, but I showed it to the girls at work and they said they thought it would appeal to women too, which is great. I realised that for the last few weeks some very talented people have been working to make Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome - and, by association, me - a success. It shouldn't have come as a surprise, but as a writer you sometimes get so wrapped up in your own little world of words you forget that this a serious commercial enterprise. Simon has put me in touch with my publicist and the next step will be to work out a plan of action for the weeks leading up to the launch day. It's still six months away, but it seems a lot closer now that I know what the book will look like.

I'm in purdah from the book I call The War God, which is the follow up to Caligula, so I'm working on a rewrite of a crime novel. It's a big job, basically tearing great chunks out of the structure and putting some of them back in different places. The characters are great, but sometimes I think that in deconstructing it, I've lost the soul of the book. Then again, I remember having the same feeling when I was turning The Emperor's Elephant into what is now Caligula, so maybe it's all about perseverance and creating something I can get a grip of again.

A couple of things I missed out of the story so far you might be interested in, but I'll make them short. First, the day I felt a connection with a real writer. I was reading Stephen King's book On Writing (if you haven't read it, you really should) and I came to this passage and I thought Yes! This is me. That's exactly how I feel sometimes. It was the part where he talks about how, when you're writing, sometimes you think all you're doing is shifting manure from one place to another!

Then there was the day I signed the contract. Stan invited me to a little cafe near Jenny Brown's office on the edge of the Meadows in Edinburgh. It was one of those cosmopolitan places full of interesting people. When he took me through the nuts and bolts of the contract, and then got me to sign all three versions, I realised I was probably the person everybody else was interested in. Just for a moment I felt like an honest to goodness movie star.


Lexi said...

Such moments are rare (unless you really are a star, in which case you probably get fed up with them) and fun.

I made the Royal Household's jubilee gift to the Queen, and had to go to Buckingham Palace quite a few times. Going past the tourists and through the gate, with them staring, was always entertaining.

Glad you like the cover. They are often disappointing. Did you get much of a say in the design?

Welshcake said...

*Curtsies to Lexi*

Are you allowed to show us a picture of the cover? Probably not.

I can connect with the comment about manure too.

I can't wait to read Caligula. It'll be fascinating to see how much of the original opening made it into the final version. I wonder if the heart rending scene with the leopard Circe is still there?

Doug said...

Hi Lexi, I'm impressed - a couple of hundred years ago you'd have got a title for that.

Transworld would probably be happy enough to hear any suggestions, but they don't have to act on them. Obviously you have your own ideas, but they're the ones selling the books. Luckily the cover's great - very professional and lots of wow factor.

I won't spoil it for you Justine, you can read it for yourself. Hope everything's been going well with your writing. I looked in at YWO the other day and I see everybody's still exercised about dodgy reviews and over-criticism. I had to laugh. My agent's crit of Brothers in Arms runs to three A4 pages and he's got me tearing the book to pieces at the moment

harry said...

Hi Doug,
Just catching up on your blog following its plug on YWO. Looking forward to reading Caligula. I've been following its progress iwth interest sine I read the origianl chapters on YWO many moons ago. Here's to your continued success.