By now it was September 1998. They wanted to publish the Trade Paperback in July 1999, the Mass Market Paperback in 2000. By publishing standards, that’s the blink of an eye.

My editor sent me a few pages of notes regarding revisions. Everything she said made perfect sense and would only improve the story – the trouble was, she wanted the revisions “yesterday”, and, if you remember, I still had loads of research to do.

There was no way I could do this research on my own; for one thing, I had no idea how to go about doing historical research; I had no idea which libraries might contain the needed information, nor which books in those libraries to read. Secondly, I just didn’t have the time to dig around for what I needed.

But by now I had caught up with the 20th century: I had internet. I Yahoo!-d (no Google back then!) around until I found gold. The British Library had a list of historians for the period I needed. I chose one of these, wrote her a letter explaining my dilemma, and asked her if I could hire her to do the research for me. She agreed, and off we went. I gave her a rundown of the story and told her of the circumstances that needed researching. It would mean she’d have to use her own imagination to figure out the possibilities, and she laughed at that. She’d never been asked to use her expertise for fiction before!

She worked quickly, and so did I. I pride myself on always meeting my deadlines, and working against the clock I finished on time and returned the revised manuscript to my grateful editor – exactly on time.

By now, the Frankfurt Book Fair had rolled around. I had been there once, to meet my last agent. It had been overwhelming: a universe of books, stock-market atmosphere, and everyone who’s anyone in the book trade rushing around making deals. As a nobody-writer, I had felt lost and insignificant. Now I was an about-to-be-published author, and my foreign-rights agent believed she could make some lucrative deals for me. I didn’t go myself, but I knew she already had a few nibbles…


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