Thursday, 17 April 2008

Countdown to Caligula

It's been London Book Week for the last few days and I'm pretty certain Transworld will have been doing their best to sell the rights for Caligula around the world. The little flurry of foreign sales I had before Christmas, Italy, Russia and Poland, gave me the wrong idea about the way these things work and I now realise how fortunate I was to have that early success. The last couple of weeks have been quiet on the book front, but I had word from Simon that Caligula's name has changed again. I'm now the author of Caligula - with a sub-title of: Can a slave decide the fate of an Emperor? which is a line I like, but is taking a bit of getting used to. I've just got back from Vilamoura on the Algarve on a holiday with my wife Alison and son Gregor, and his pal Ross. We had a hurricane for the first few days - at least the rain was warm - but the weather was hot for the rest of the week. The marina is great, but I found the rest of the resort a bit soulless. The best days I had were walking along the incredible, eroded red cliffs between Vilamoura and Albufeira and, surprise, surprise, at the Roman museum which is mostly an outdoor villa complex with pottery still lying more or less where it's been for the last two thousand years. Been in touch with a guy called Bob Low who I haven't seen for about ten years. He's another journalist turned author and we used to work together at the Daily Record in Glasgow. I didn't realise he'd written a book until I saw it in the shops, a historical novel - more Viking saga actually - called The Whale Road, the story of an intrepid band of Vikings called the Oathsworn. If anyone should know about Vikings it's Bob, who takes part in re-enactments, has built boats, stood in battle lines and, judging by his stories, has revelled in the mud and the blood - and the ale. By chance I had the opportunity to read his second book The Wolf Sea while I was on the way back from Portugal and I thought it was brilliant. He has an incredible depth of knowledge and a gutsy writing style that really takes you there and holds you in thrawl. If you like historical novels with an edge, it's right up with Bernard Cornwell. Three months to go to July 14 and I had another tremendously positive reaction from a friend who read one of my book proof copies while she was on holiday. She homed in on all the stuff I thought was special, but the best was when she told me: "You know, Doug, you really got the women right. A lot of male writers aren't able to do that." Until she said it, I wasn't sure I could either.


Lexi said...

I like the new title - but weren't you consulted at all about it?

On another subject, may I ask how many people, a)friends/relatives and b)professionals in the book trade have read the whole book?

I've no idea how many people read a book before a decision is made to buy it.

Doug said...

Hi Lexi, the new title came about after Transworld held their international sales conference about a month or so ago. A number of people who were there read it and were very enthusiastic about it, but thought the 'Can a slave decide the fate of an Emperor?' line was a better sales pitch than the original. I was asked what I thought and I agreed with them, because I'd always liked it. It's included on the back page of the book proof, but wasn't on the hardback cover and I thought that was a shame.
I don't know how many people in the trade have read it, but I'd guess at a couple of dozen. Friends and family would be six or seven. They've all enjoyed it so far. The only complaint was from my daughter who thought the sex scenes were a bit raunchy for her old man to have written.


Lexi said...

Ah, one's offspring - they do try to keep one in line, bless them.

I know little about the book trade, but with everyone so jittery and anxious not to waste money on authors who won't sell, you'd think they'd have come up with some scheme by now. Like getting a hundred selected readers to comment on a book before committing themselves.

But I suppose this would be expensive and uncertain too.