If you think you know a truth, stop, and ask yourself if you really do. That is most especially the dynamic when fear steps into the frame, as it did in New York, or at 3000 miles remove. Perhaps it was specifically the case when my agent Ginger Clark told me that Abrams would sue me if I tried to walk away from a situation that was killing me, and which I could not cope with any more. But I am not entirely sure they would or could have done, and it is probably exactly what I should have done for my own sanity.
Yet the tendency to battle is in my blood too, you just do not write epic books without it, and also came out of coming from a legal family. Perhaps it was part resentment at what had happened over Fire Bringer, with a relationship split up years before, that had already harmed my ability to shine with my first novel, and I am convinced saw the US paperback originally shunted into an awful edition, that some young fans could not even read. Macmillan had closed a door, out of my original editor’s departure, my daring to sell another book I had first offered them to Bloomsbury, and the failure of my third novel. A period that then moved towards my Dad’s death. Too much grief, too much me, and as Kipling said of success and failure, triumph and disaster, ‘if you can look on those lying jades as just the same, then you’ll be…”
The truth is I had a lot to thank Susan Van Metre for, and tried to return that loyalty too, in the heat of the crisis, but they would not hear by then that I was somehow not US Public Enemy Number One. Nor could I see they either had much knowledge of or real respect for how difficult writing can be sometimes. What I was telling them about what I needed and need in order to work and create well, rather than having that dictated to me. Trust was at bottom dollar out of what happened over a book called ‘Hew, Screw and Glue’. The other truth is, when you have been with someone at the heart of a company for two years, you no longer see their colleagues as Vice President or Associate Editor, you see them as people you ‘knew’ virtually every day, if only at one remove. If any split up sees the politics of judgments and loyalties come into play, that could not have been more painful than there. But it was an open communication not only with an editor, but a designer and a publicist too.
The whole lot was withdrawn, as a relationship was withdrawn brutally too, because of a senior employee they claimed had ‘nothing to do with my books’ , which I had already experienced in touring was rubbish, and it was very badly handled. The warning had come down months and months before from stony, confident and at times extremely arrogant Susan van Metre ‘we will protect our girl’. As I’ve said before, good for you, the whole ethic of Fell is protection, but protect your authors too, and rather than your editorial advice being ‘give us another Fire Bringer’, as if that happens with the wave of a magic wand, or is like the next packaged book for a supermarket, try to understand the psychological dynamics inside human beings. If I was not worth fighting for as a writer, I just wasn’t, but if I was…
Was I nuts, also caught between my own agent now and Abrams, to argue with that agent that there must be values at play beyond money or success? I not only believe they had those values, which I myself was losing, I know it, yet how people and life can change with that ‘providence in a fall of a sparrow.‘ I did not really want or need an agent, I had done the deal on Fell myself with two people at a company, and it had helped restore all the issues over Fire Bringer. All Ginger Clark really ever did was prod me, and say ‘I’m gonna tell them this, right?’ I had found the way out, myself, but I had dropped ‘the ball’ and the real ‘evil’ in life really is falling in between, especially for a man, perhaps. But it is also about different kinds of love, the kind of love a child needs in order to grow, and the adult simply gives, for something much bigger. Those states are very much in play in that world and, at times, it is a rather peculiar and emotionally fraught one.
Ah, the power of love is a curious thing, makes one man weep and another man sing…!