Passing out the cigars
It's been one of those months - which is why this entry is somewhat delayed. One of the things about writing is that you can spend months with just your keyboard for company (though my wife dusts me occasionally) and then everything happens at once.
This month saw the launch of not one but two books - so please say hello to 'Lives of the Romans', as well as to 'Athens on five drachmas a day'. Looking at those two on my bookcase certainly gives me a glow of parental pride and a feeling that the last eighteen months have been well spent. The reviewers have been favourable too - so thanks also to the nice people at the NY Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian.
Now it's been on to one of the bits of this job I particularly enjoy. Meeting publishers and fellow writers and discussing forthcoming projects with them. I'm just back from London (where I took in the Hadrian exhibition) stocked up on tea bags and curry powder, and with a much clearer idea of what 2009 holds in store. It's going to be busy, busy!
Next month, Mithridates charges out across the bookstores of the United Kingdom. His release to the general public was slightly delayed, but in typical Mithridates style, he's released on fireworks night. I really enjoyed doing the story of the old reprobate, and he's probably my favourite of all the characters I've covered. That will make three releases in three months - so back to the keyboard I go. Hopefully someone will remind me when it's Christmas...
The Devil's in the details
My latest effort is soon to be handed over to the production editor. I'll be able to give more details after the Frankfurt book fair - my publishers wouldn't want me tipping my hand too early. However, as it's due out in the spring, details will be appearing soon enough in the 'forthcoming books' section.
At present, the really fun part - writing the thing - is done. Now comes the painful bit of going through and painfully filling in details that I merrily skipped over in my fine literary frenzy. Here's a quote that I labelled 'Cicero'. I see that my bone-idle earlier self did not bother to note the book or chapter number. I've literally a bookshelf of Cicero's works, and now have to go through the lot tracking down that one quote. Afterwards I'll find that, due to a mental lapse, I meant Livy anyway.
Then there's the fact that readers appreciate it if I don't have sentences filled with dangling participles, relative clauses that have lost their dependent parts, and pronouns used so enthusiastically that one has to turn back two pages to find who the original subject was. I know my editor will point out any omissions in her kindly way, but it's always better to try to get it right first for myself.
On a different note, say hello to Athens! Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day should have hit the shelves of a store near you today or thereabouts. It's written as a companion volume for Rome on Five Denarii a day, and let's hope it gets the same favourable reception.
'Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?'
('Paperback writer', the Beatles)
I'm humming this to myself as I look at the pre-production paperbacks of the Greece and Rome travel guides. I see that the suitcase theme on the covers (originally established when an extract was published by the Independent newspaper) has now firmly taken hold. These are my first paperbacks ever, so I'm looking at them with a proudly paternal expression.
However, Greece on 5 Drachmas a Day did not take 'years to write' - in fact it holds another record for the fastest production to date. I started writing it in September 2007 and it took less than a year after that for the first finished copy to arrive. Admittedly it helped that I'd known I'd be writing it since 2005, and so had just to commit the previous 18 months of research to paper, but it still shows impressive skill by T&H on the production side.
A big thank you to those people who have shown enough faith in my abilities to pre-buy the book in very healthy quantities even before it has been released. Even more scarily, some buyers had acquired the foreign rights months before I set finger to keyboard to write the opening words.
Tower of Babel
Hello Romania, Holland and Poland!
It's always fun to see new languages being added to the 'In other words' section of the website, and as you can see, there are books there in over a dozen languages now. Since I have some (basic) German, I work closely with my German publishers, but with some others, such as the French and Korean, I had no idea I was being published in that language until my complementary copy arrived in the post.
The top shelf of my bookcase has now a fine multi-lingual look, and though I can't read the text, its fun to look at the layouts, and see how different nationalities have chosen different approaches.
Then, because I can't help myself, I go to amazon and see how each books is getting on in its new country. I understand that there are over 200 languages in the world which are spoken by more than a million people. So that's just 187 languages to go before matyszakbooks.com manages complete world domination. (Well, 188 actually, because I'd love to see some of the travel guides in Latin!)
Athens in the rain
It's been a tough few weeks in the Tirol - the weather has been so wet and cloudy its hardly been worth going outdoors, and I'm down with a rotten throat infection that has me croaking like a frog.
So can't go out, and can't talk. That's left me with a complete lack of excuses, so I've been at the keyboard for six hours a day. The result is that I'm well ahead of schedule on my latest projects, so after the weekend I'm going to be taking a two-week break. If it starts raining again, I'll see if the tennis players at Wimbledon are having better luck.
The weather is improving, and I've a friend - a fellow historian - coming over for a visit. Unless my voice improves, he's going to win a lot of our usual arguments by default. On the other hand, I can't drink whilst I'm on these pills, so my late-night discussions will be considerably more coherent than usual.
I was looking over some of the proofs of the Athens book due out in September - my first multi-national debut. I'll be published in the US in paperback, in the UK in hardback and in Germany and Austria in German. So gibt's weiter!