A Polish 'Gone With The Wind' by Catherine Czerkawska
|Cover by Claire MacLean|
She couldn't sell it.
The first draft was written more years ago than I care to remember. I'd had a novel bought by the Bodley Head and published by Random House. This was back in the days of the big takeovers and I fell victim to one of them, but really, I was a Bodley Head kind of a writer. For my next novel, I had been crafting this big Polish historical saga, or a version of it. I had cut my teeth with a couple of radio plays and some poems and stories. I had done a lot of research. These characters were in my head, itching to tell their tale. We had high hopes. A string of acquisitions editors told my agent that they had stayed awake reading it and 'wept buckets' over it and couldn't put it down.
But no, they wouldn't be making an offer for it.
Marketing always turned it down. Nobody was interested in anything set in Poland, they said. My agent at that time felt so badly about it that she wrote to me later to say how sorry she was. It still niggled at her as the 'one that got away', but I knew it wasn't her fault. The time was out of joint. Crunch time came when my last agent who had also professed to think it 'wonderful', handed it over to an editorial assistant who told me to cut the last third of it. Get rid of it. No, I said. This was quickly followed by the usual letter from an acquisitions editor at one of the big six (five now) who said that although she loved it she 'couldn't carry marketing with her.'
Enough was enough. I published it myself, on Kindle, where it has done well so far. There will be a print edition at some point. But meanwhile, it will be on a Kindle Countdown special offer for a whole week, starting on 25th December - and it's one of Authors Electric's GRAND CHRISTMAS SALE OFFERS. (Check them all out on this blog, over Christmas - there are brilliant book bargains to be had!)
Actually, you don't have to count down at all - it will be on sale at just 99p (or 99c in the US) for a whole week. Cheap at the price because this is a big meaty book.
|Inspiration for the butter yellow house of Lisko - and some of the characters - from my Kossak forebears|
|Watercolour by Great Uncle Karol|
In each corner of the room stood sheaves of rye, wheat, barley and oats. There was straw on the floor, and a thin layer of hay on the table-top which was covered with white linen. The company sat down to eat. The farmer broke the blessed wafer, thickly spread with honey, and handed it to each guest in turn, including Piotro in this ritual with a smile.
‘Welcome, stranger! Welcome in God’s name and eat!’
The supper was traditionally meatless but very plentiful - the family had been saving for this all year - and Piotro ate his fill of beetroot soup, cold pike set in jelly, fried carp, smoked eels and pierogi, dumplings shaped like little ears and filled with potato, onions and cabbage. There was dense, creamy cheesecake, spicy honey cake, luscious poppy seed roll called makowiec and the traditional dish of kutia. At the less decorous end of the meal, the young boys of the family vied with each other in tossing spoonfuls of the grain and poppy seed mixture up to the ceiling. When it stuck there it signified luck and a good harvest for the following year.
|My dad, in the snow!|
Moving between the house of Lisko in 19th century Eastern Poland, (part of the Austro Hungarian Empire at that time), and the magical city of Vienna, the novel explores the ways in which the lives of a miscellany of characters are disrupted by the turmoil of the times. It's a nice fireside read for a cold winter's night. Cheap at the price - but then I would say that, wouldn't I? Because I'm still half in love with Maryanna and Piotro, With Julian too. And perhaps especially with the beautiful pancake yellow house of Lisko.
|Another version of Lisko|