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Guest blogger: TM Clark

5 December 2021

Just where is my favourite author’s next book?

As a reader, I love new books, I follow my favourite authors, and I pre-order many of their books or make a point of purchasing the new ones in hard copy when I can when they launch. But then one of my favourites goes quiet—sometimes I don’t even notice for a year or two, but suddenly I’m left wondering: What happened? Why no new book?

I hate it when my favourite author stops providing me with new stories, but then I think … perhaps they are writing and researching and all the other fun parts that go into creating one of their wonderful stories; maybe there’s one coming soon.

But then the void widens and still nothing. Just silence.

In yesteryears, readers just patiently waited. You either saw a new book from that author, or they disappeared from your radar—sometimes forever—becoming a distant memory.

But it’s 2021 and, luckily, things work a bit differently for both writers and readers these days.

The internet has become an amazing tool to keep writers and readers in touch, even when there is not a book. Readers follow writers on social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, even the newer TikTok/BookTok—readers will go where their authors are to stay in touch with them. There is no longer that huge wall between the mysterious writer and their readers. Authors are expected to be accessible. And readers know that and respond by wanting to know more about what’s happening in an author’s life.

And for this, I’m really grateful as I have done the ‘disappearing act’ on my readers. And no, it wasn’t planned. Life just happened.

As an author, this is why I chose to talk about the lack of releases in my blog post today. And thank you to ARRA for allowing it, as the relationship between readers and writers have evolved so much over the years, and organisations like ARRA have also had their part in creating and maintaining the momentum of change.

Publishing schedules are hectic, sometimes they grind slowly like a giant African snail, and there is no amount of pushing along you can do—it just takes as long as it takes.

I began to look at authors who had ‘breaks’, as there is a myth that you will lose a readership. I don’t believe this is true.

I found this list on the internet—and couldn’t help but smile.

Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. In 2014 Go Set a Watchman was published. Fifty-five years between books.

Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man was followed in 1999 by Juneteenth, published posthumously, 47 years later.

Marilynne Robinson’s 1980 novel Housekeeping had a 24-year gap before Gilead was published in 2004.

Henry Roth first published Call it Sleep in 1934, but his next work, the four-volume series Mercy of a Rude Stream, was only published in 1994, 60 years later.

Donna Tartt published The Secret History in 1992, and 10 years later The Little Friend was published, and in 2013, 11 years later, The Goldfinch was published.

Obviously, there are many, many more. But these people are all literary and ‘older’, so I went looking. But what about people I knew? What had happened with them, those more contemporary authors who famously had huge breaks of more than two years?

Apologies in advance to Markus Zusak for bringing him up, as he is a man in a million. But The Book Thief was published in 2005; he then had a hectic life until 2018, when finally Bridges of Clay came out.

He has a fabulous TED talk titled ‘The failurist: Markus Zusak at TEDxSydney 2014’, which is so worth a watch. You can find it here.

Not that anyone other than Markus considers Markus a failure!!!!

Authors are artists and, in a way, I think that modern-day authors are equivalent to performers in a circus. (Bear with this analogy.) We ‘perform’ for the readers who expected an author to deliver a book, and then another and another, just like a performer shows up and delivers their show time after time under the big top. Be it trade or independently published. There is an expectation of an idea to becomes a novel and for the reader to have access to that novel for their enjoyment.

But somewhere along the way, a rumour was started that readers have short memories and forget their authors if they didn’t consistently deliver a book.

Just like circuses would cease to exist if the animals they owned stopped performing. It was proved not to be true. And I don’t think that readers are the same as those circus owners at all.

Why? There is foresight in readers. Compassion and inquisitiveness, but there is also an affinity between readers and authors that no one appreciates unless you are in the industry. A symbiotic relationship. The author thrives on the reader, writing their words. The reader thrives on those words.

Thankfully, the invention of computers and the internet has shortened the process of writing a story and publishing it. (Inside shudder: I know that I couldn’t write if it was on a typewriter. No, not going to happen. I’m a bad typist and need my computer to tell me spelling errors and mistakes. My manuscript would look like a Tipp-Ex/whiteout nightmare if I had to type!). And, thanks to the internet, getting the book into the readers’ hands, once it’s completed, has become easier and quicker too.

So, when the author has a break—whether it’s burnt out, personal reasons, return to university, or the story they are writing is bigger than the normal time frame—are they forgotten?

I don’t believe they are.

The readers of today are savvy. Unless an author has said explicitly on their social media that they are stepping away from writing for good, readers hang in there, send encouraging emails, interact on social media with the author, and keep in touch, knowing that the love they send towards that author will come back to them in the form of a book. All in good time. And the author knows that their readers are still out there waiting patiently. It might not be a Harper Lee wait of 55 years or even Markus Zusak’s 13 years, but eventually another book comes from that favourite author.

Authors are not like a mist that burns off in the bright sunlight … rather authors are the fog: when the wind changes, and the temperature off the sea is just right, a new book will rise again.

You can find Tina here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Cry of the Firebird

South African–born Doctor Lily Winters, a consultant with the World Health Organization, has been in the thick of some of the worst humanitarian disasters across the globe. But when she’s posted back to South Africa following the suspicious death of an ex-colleague, she faces the biggest medical mystery she’s ever seen.

The resettled San community of Platfontein is exhibiting a higher-than-average HIV infection rate, and their people are dying. The cases Lily takes over are baffling and despite her best efforts the medicine doesn’t seem to be helping.

To save this unique community, Lily and a policeman from the Kalahari, Piet Kleinman, join forces to trace the origins of the epidemic and uncover the truth. Their search drags them into the dangerous world of a corrupt industry driven by profit while the authorities meant to protect their community turn a blind eye. In a race against time Lily and Piet will put not only their careers but their lives on the line …

  1. Kelly Hunter permalink
    5 December 2021 8:05 pm

    Fabulous post, Tina. Such an interesting topic to think through and explore.

  2. Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf permalink
    5 December 2021 1:02 pm

    Such a heartfelt post. I think some readers see their urging as encouragement to the author and don’t realise the pressure they may be putting on someone. I remember when Peter Corris announced he had finished writing due to his worsening eyesight, many readers answered with solutions like dictating. It was sad but Peter was ready and I still have his books on my shelf to read over and over.

  3. AnneGracie permalink
    5 December 2021 10:57 am

    Great post Tina, and thanks for that link to the Markus Zusak TED talk, which I also enjoyed. I shiver when I hear of how some readers abuse writers for not providing the next book that they’re waiting for. It’s one thing to be eager for it, but quite another to be nasty about it (as some readers have been to George RR Martin, for instance.) And as Cathleen said above, writers often need a break to deal with life — and to refill the well.

    • 5 December 2021 12:11 pm

      I admire you girls writing bog books, year after year. That takes an enormous amount of reilience but i am seeing burn out amongst my friends. People who also want to spend time with their families.

  4. 5 December 2021 9:51 am

    Love your post, Tina. I think writers who do back on back books get tired. I’m noticing amongst my colleagues, they are saying they need a break. It’s hard work doing big books after big books which you’ve been doing well for years.

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