Today is Icelandic National Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn), also known as the 75th anniversary of Iceland becoming a republic independent from Denmark. As it happens, two years ago we were in Iceland on that day. We missed everything.
When I first came to Amsterdam, the Pride canal parade was taking place. I spent the entire day record hunting. In Iceland, at least, we went into the country… okay, the Golden Circle… then, when we returned, we discovered something strange. There were Icelandic flags everywhere. Every single store was closed, streets – empty, every restaurant open and filled with people. We finally sat in a pizzeria (very traditional…), where I pulled out my phone and found out what was going on.
Halldór Laxness’s Independent People, which made Iceland the nation with the most Nobel prize winners (i.e. one) per capita, was the second book I read as research for Storytellers. I did not understand a lot of metaphors back then, missing on all the political allusions, my confused eyebrows wandering higher and higher until all of my hair transported itself to the back of my neck. Once I did more research I ended up with a three-page treatise on Jón Sigurðsson, Iceland’s most famous politician of all time, the leader of Icelandic independence movement. I had to cut that out from the book for obvious reasons – its title wasn’t Icelandic History for Beginners – and it wasn’t until our visit to Iceland’s National Museum a year later that I understood exactly how important Jón was.
Storytellers was officially released on March 28, 2019. Today it’s exactly one month old. Once I’m on my tenth novel I probably won’t even notice this sort of thing, too busy signing contracts with Hollywood and buying mansions. But this is my first book-baby and every morning I wake up excited to see what’s going to happen.
Here’s what happened so far…
I’ve rewritten the entire book twenty-one times.
In September 2017 I believed the book to be finished and ready to go. I asked an editor to go through the text and correct my grammar and spelling – I am painfully aware that I’m not a native speaker. She returned the book just in time for my 40th birthday (poetic, right?), mentioning in passing that perhaps a few things could do with another look, not too much, just a lick of polish. The most shocking thing she said to me was that she felt that the female characters seemed slightly flat.
Those who know me are aware that I’m an avid feminist. Almost all of my favourite books feature amazing female characters so full of life that I feel like we are BFFs. I could have dismissed Megan’s remarks, and almost have, but two of them overlapped with my beta readers’ remarks. When one person doesn’t like a detail, it’s generally not a problem. Two, though – one of them a professional – should make you think. So I did a bit of rewriting here and there. Eighteen times. Seventeen months. The total: twenty-one times over twenty-six months. Lads and ladies, here’s my book-baby, a result of an extremely overdrawn pregnancy.
Also known as the day when you can actually purchase the book.
GOOD GODS. First of all, I didn’t realise that Amazon paperbacks did not feature the preorder option, accidentally publishing an unfinished version on February 27, giving scammers a chance to “offer” the book that didn’t exist yet, meaning you could “buy” it from the scammer – but not from me. The hardcovers came with two dates: publication date and on-sale date, which technically is a preorder, but in practice the book showed up on Amazon on March 28th, declaring that it was released on March 7th. At least the e-book did come out on the day it was supposed to be released. There were, excitingly, some preorders. The super deluxe boxed sets sold out within less than three days since I announced them, way before I even put one paragraph online.
This was the simple bit.