When I was just starting to write an older, more experienced, author told me that you needed any two out of three particular things in order to succeed as an author; Talent, Hard Work, and Luck. It puzzled me then that talent was optional (I now know better!) and I quickly discovered how important Luck is - like a lottery win, the right review, the right person just happening on your book, an international event at the right moment and you’re projected into the stratosphere.
I’d been planning for quite a while to E-publish my biography of Christina Rossetti - a book I’m frequently asked for and which can cost quite a lot on the second hand market. Unfortunately E-publishing the biography of a poet isn’t easy - all those illustrations, all those poems requiring individual formatting for Kindle. A nightmare. But I’m lucky to have a partner who’s not only an artist (he’s designed several of my book covers for major publishers), but also a cyber-wizard.
With the help of Mobi-pocket Creator and Calibre he’s managed to create a beautiful E-book with tiny decorations on the chapter headings, full end notes, index and illustrations.
He’s also included all my lavish quotes from Christina’s poetry.
And then came an additional bit of luck. Just as I began proof reading the copy I got a phone call from a BBC producer - Hadn’t I written a book on Christina Rossetti? Could I talk about her in conversation with Gyles Brandreth for a Christmas programme featuring her carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’?
So there I was last week, on a rainy October day in London, with fake snow and a BBC film crew pretending to look natural (acting’s not my strong point!) and trying not to giggle, for a short clip on the BBC One show to go out just before Christmas. What author could ask for better publicity?
For the Kindle edition we’ve re-titled the book. Originally it was ‘Learning not to be First: the Life of Christina Rossetti’, but I discovered that if you put Christina’s name into the Amazon search engine, my book came up on page 14. Turning the title round to read ‘Christina Rossetti: Learning not to be First’, produced a result on the first page. This is very important as I’ve just realised that a rival author is also re-issuing her biography in December.
I’ve enjoyed re-visiting Christina’s life - had almost forgotten what a wonderful poet she was, as well as a passionate woman who gave up opportunities as an author, and two of the men she loved, for her religious beliefs. And I re-read Goblin Market - one of the most erotic poems of the 19th century - originally marketed as a fairy tale for children - much more in a post-Freudian universe.
But it was also great fun reading about the Pre-Raphaelites’ “goings on” - Dante Gabriel’s addiction to alcohol and opiates, feuds with Whistler and Ruskin, Swinburne sliding naked down the banisters at a party, triangular relationships with models and other painters’ wives.
Just for once, because of the time lapse, I was able to enjoy one of my own books as a reader rather than an author.
Kindle Books by Kathleen Jones
Christina Rossetti: Learning not to be First
A Passionate Sisterhood: The Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets
Three and other Stories