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Friday, 12 December 2014

Erin McKechnie on giving birth to a new book

The Christening
Most of you will know that I self published my first novel ‘Cissy’ in the middle of the year. Maybe with your first book you indulged in the same feelings I did: an incredible, overwhelming feeling of awe and wonder at your own magnificence as you stroked for the first time that glossily covered, exquisitely designed and presented work of art. Cissy’s arrival meant the world will never be the same again.
Do you remember how slow and painful the passage was for this delicate embryo of the heart and mind? For me and Cissy the journey posed challenges of the most personal nature. As she grew, I dithered, beset with doubt; should I express what we wanted to say so bluntly, expose my feelings and be vulnerable to ridicule or rejection? The potential to be misunderstood was enormous.  If I was more restrained, would the immediacy and honesty be lost, would readers have any awareness of the complex dynamics in play which created Cissy’s environment?
Along the way Cissy, encased in the cloth of golden prose I had created for her, was sent out into the world to be edited. It was a cold, harsh experience. The first editor didn’t like the book, said it was far too explicit. Demoralised, feeling small and that Cissy was tarnished, I revised many of the passages so that they were less likely to offend the sensibilities of her potential readership. In the process Cissy became a tame and inhibited version of the real thing, lacking frankness and vitality.
A couple of beta-readers gave Cissy and me a shot in the arm, kind and encouraging in their acceptance of her for what she was, a beginner feeling her way in the world, but with good bones. I felt stronger as I sent her out to meet her second editor, the cloth of golden possibility restored from around her ankles to drape gracefully across her shoulders.  Although the second editor liked her well enough she thought Cissy lacked detail.  The subtle references to passionate interludes and flaming exchanges were not explicit enough, she wanted specifics. In short, her opinion was completely the reverse of the first editor.
And so I learned a valuable lesson:  ultimately I must hold onto my own  voice, I must send my darlings out into the world wrapped in the best cloth of gold I can give them, and editors’ opinions are just that, they are not the word of God.
And then that magical moment, when the first beautiful books arrived on my doorstep at seven o’clock in the morning. The tea and toast went cold as I mooned over those gleaming manifestations of the most creative achievement of my life. Maybe you more experienced writers with numerous titles sustaining your sense of well being no longer feel as I did then, but I admit freely, the satisfaction I feel whenever I look at a copy of Cissy is as rich as it was that first winter morning.
It was not enough. Cissy had not been presented to the world, was not Known. I felt bereft; as if one of my precious children, created with so much of my own life force, deserving of acknowledgement, was being ignored. Circumstances precluded having a launch at the time the first books arrived and as time went by it seemed that Cissy might miss out. But – last week I passed through the last rite of passage for a new book – the Launch. Once again others expressed their opinion, pointing out launches are a waste of money and sales don’t compensate for the outlay. They didn’t understand, did they? A launch is not a money making venture. This was a celebration of the transition of this work of art from being a dream in my mind to being a tangible entity ready to go out into the world and create a life of its own. 
I see this book as being rich with promise, blessed with the love and good wishes of all those who attended the launch, as a baby is by those who attend a christening. Finally, unequivocally, it is real.



  1. Beautifully expressed, Erin. It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of why we do this - why we open our hearts and minds and place their contents on paper to share with the world. I am inspired all over again.

  2. Beautiful, Erin. You said it all so well and I agree - there is nothing quite like holding your first book in your hands. I'm so glad we could be part of the process. Thanks for letting the group share Cissy's journey and being part of the launch.

  3. Each book is a baby to cherish. Holding the second or third or ninth published book is a thrill beyond compare. After all, each book is the result of months of hard work. Seeing the result is just wonderful.

  4. Every published work gives goosebumps.