Posts Tagged Dianne Noble
When Dianne Noble contacted me and said her third novel was about to be published, I was shocked – this was Dianne’s third book in fifteen months. Surely nobody can be that prolific?! So I asked Dianne to explain herself and this is what she told me:
I suppose it might appear prolific, three books out in fifteen months, Outcast first followed by A Hundred Hands and now Oppression which was published today, June 14th 2017, and is available for 99p for a very limited time.
But it’s not as prolific as it appears! I doubt anyone could turn out writing of any quality at such speed. The painful truth is that the first two had been written for a few years. I’d been doing voluntary work in India, teaching street children to speak English, and when I came home again had the idea that the journal I’d kept would be a good basis for a novel. Unhappily, agents and publishers thought differently and after Outcast had been rejected 32 times I stopped submitting, sat back and licked my wounds.
After nursing my bruised ego for several months, I decided to write another book, A Hundred Hands, also based in India, but with a different story line. I joined two writing groups and took my work in, chapter by chapter, week after week. Their critique was merciless and within a short time I felt tempted to abandon the whole idea. Whatever had made me think I could write? However, the stubborn part of me persevered and bit by bit every chapter was re-written, every word checked and evaluated, until I had a complete manuscript. I trawled The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to find agents or publishers who 1) dealt in contemporary women’s fiction and 2) accept unsolicited manuscripts. They were very thin on the ground!
It took Conville & Walsh 17 days to refuse me and Curtis Brown 5 weeks. Some took months to respond, others never answered at all. It’s hard to describe how demoralising it is when everyone says no. You wonder if you’re totally deluded thinking you can write, and your skin seems to get thinner rather than thicker.
When I received an email from Tirgearr Publishing my heart sank. I was at rock bottom and really couldn’t take another rejection. But it wasn’t! It was an acceptance and a contract. I don’t know how many times I read it, totally disbelieving that somewhere, someone (apart from me) thought I could write.
So when Outcast was accepted, A Hundred Hands already existed in draft form and Oppression then took around a year to write – not as prolific as it might first appear!
Dianne supplied me with an advance review copy of Oppression and it is well worth reading. It is a story of women fighting circumstance, men and religion in Yorkshire and Egypt. Dianne is brilliant at settings – sights, sounds, smells and dialogue are all authentic and her characters will have you rooting for them. Don’t miss the 99p offer!
We’ve all heard the old adage ‘write what you know’. Dianne Noble has taken that to heart and her second book, A Hundred Hands, set in the slums of Kolkata, will be published by Tirgearr on 2nd November 2016. Remembering the details from a time past is often a problem when writing what you know. Dianne had no difficulty recalling the sights, sounds and experiences of her time in India because she made a determined, disciplined effort to keep a journal. In the passage below Dianne grabs the reader by the neck and dumps her in the midst of Kolkata. I challenge you to read it and not be gripped:
India is an assault on the senses.
My shirt sticks to my back as I edge round a goat, swatting at flies, coughing as the smoke from pavement cooking fires catches in my throat. After four hours of threadbare sleep I’m fighting my way round Kolkata, India, trying to find the group of street children I’m here to teach English to.
The noise makes my ears hurt – shouting, blaring of horns, backfiring buses. A cow stands in the road, munching impassively on a discarded newspaper, and traffic edges round it. This creature is holy. If a driver were to run into it he would be dragged from his car by an angry crowd and beaten up.The heat beats on my head like a hammer as I search among blackened buildings whose stonework crumbles like stale cake. I smell spices and sewage and urine evaporating in hot sun.
That must be the place. It takes me an age to cross the road, weaving between rickshaws, yellow taxis, tuk tuks festooned with dusty tinsel. The children are so tiny – malnourished – with bare feet, cropped hair and laddered ribs, but they shriek with laughter when I try to speak to them in Hindi. They stroke the pale skin of my arms and clamber on to my knees as I sit, cross-legged and crampy, on the bare earth floor. They are a joy, desperate to learn English, desperate to improve their position at the bottom of the luck ladder.
When I get back to my small room that evening my feet are gritty and blistered, my chest is raw with exhaust fumes and I’m filthy. Sweat makes white rivulets down the dirt on my face and I feel, and doubtless smell, rank.
By the end of my first week I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of the poverty, despairing at the smallness of my contribution. How can I possibly do this for three whole months? Whatever had I been thinking of?
I start a journal and at the end of every day, no matter how tired I am, I write down every detail of my day – how the children are progressing, who made me laugh, how much their poor chests rattle, who has the worst sores. It’s a sort of de-briefing and I find it cathartic as I realise that I’m surrounded every day by happy, smiling children. I hear laughter everywhere I go in this dreadful place and the Bengali men and women get used to seeing me, wave and call out ‘Hello, Aunty’ (a term of respect for women of a certain age!) At the wayside shrine even jolly, elephant-headed Ganesh wears a broad grin.
My diary covers three months and forms the basis for A Hundred Hands, which tells the story of Polly who saw the plight of the children living on the streets and stayed to help.
A Hundred Hands is currently on Amazon pre-order for only 99p – a bargain price for what promises to be a very atmospheric book!
Most writers get used to rejection early in their careers. The trick is to have a little cry, eat some chocolate, take on board any constructive criticism offered and then get back to the business of writing. And it always helps to know that you are not the only one being constantly kicked in the teeth.
I first met Dianne Noble on a weekend novel writing course in 2013 and then again at Swanwick a couple of years ago. Dianne’s first novel, Outcast, was published last week by Tirgearr Publishing and she’s kindly agreed to share her rocky journey to publication:
It started with a journal.
I’d been doing voluntary work in India for several months, teaching English to street children in Kolkata and keeping a diary. My experiences seemed to be a good basis for a novel. Alas! Agents and publishing houses alike thought differently and 32 rejections later I stopped submitting, sat back and licked my wounds.
The painful truth was that my writing was just not good enough. After nursing my bruised ego for several months I started another book, based in India but with a different story. This time I took it in, chapter by chapter, to each of two writing groups I had joined. Their critique was merciless and I often felt like abandoning the whole idea. Why did I think I could write? What made me think I could be a published author? However, bit by painful bit, my work was pulled into shape and I felt ready to start the submission process again.
I trawled through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook highlighting a) agents and b) publishing houses who not only handled contemporary women’s fiction but also accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I found them to be thin on the ground!
The plan was to have three submissions out at any one time and as each rejection was received, submit one more. This didn’t always prove to be viable as response times varied dramatically.
Conville & Walsh refused me in 17 days, Curtis Brown took 5 weeks, Aitken Alexander 8 weeks. Some were many months in responding, others didn’t reply at all.
It’s hard not to take rejections personally, to feel that you are deluding yourself that you can write, but all you can do is plough on and hope. One morning I opened an email from Tirgearr Publishing with the usual sinking heart, without noticing there was an attachment. A contract. How many times I read this before I could believe that someone liked my novel!
This small, independent publishing house requests the complete manuscript and guarantees an answer within 4 weeks and this is exactly what they delivered. Once I had signed the contract I was fully prepared for them demanding radical changes to my book but they accepted it as it was, other than a small amount of editing for grammar, punctuation and the occasional anomaly i.e. he had dark hair in Chapter 1 and by Chapter 12 he’s gone bald! Art work for the cover was organised in house, a website was set up linked to Tirgearr and the book was released on March 16th 2016.
The most important thing for any author, in my view, is to join a writing group. Not a cosy one where gossip is exchanged over coffee and cake but a tough one. A group who will critique, pull your writing to pieces, maybe reduce you to tears. Then, when your novel is as good as you can possibly make it, start submitting. Again and again and again. You’ll get there.
Good advice from Dianne. Her success has been hard won and well-deserved. Outcast is already sitting on my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Find out more about Dianne and her itinerant life on her website and why not take a look inside Outcast?
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