The Art of Baking Blind by Little Shelford writer Sarah Vaughan was published on July 3 2014. Here is an update on Sarah's second novel.
If you’d asked me a month ago what I would be doing today, I would probably have said relaxing or catching up with all the things I’d neglected while completing my second novel. The deadline was supposed to be yesterday (November 30) and I fully expected to be collapsed in a heap, doing no writing at all.
But about three weeks ago, my publishers kindly offered to extend the deadline because they needed to shift the date of publication. And, of course, that was fatal. Suddenly a deadline that had been etched on my brain for a year seemed fluid – and I believed I had all the time in the world to perfect my final draft.
Except that now I haven’t. My deadline is January 1st but, in reality, I have to get this book finished by December 19, when my children break up, or the 21st at the very, very latest. Which means I have three weeks. That is all.
I have 109,000 words that need to be reduced down in that time; but more importantly I have work out if I have 100,000 words that are good enough – or if more rewriting needs to be done, as well as some ruthless slashing. Hemingway was famously uncomplimentary about first drafts. This is draft three and so it’s not quite as bad as that, I hope, and yet there are still big changes to be made. The question is when to stop. It’s hugely satisfying to run a red pen through reams of copy. But I do have a tendency to fiddle: ri-jigging sentences and then reverting to the original, after all.
There is something called “second novel syndrome”: which is rather like second album syndrome. If a first novel is written with exuberance, the author’s experience of life tumbling into it, the second is a professional act of writing: I have a contract, and feel a huge burden of expectation to write something good.
Of course there’ll be further editing once I’ve submitted this: possibly extensive changes in January once my editor has read it; further changes once the copy editor’s seen it, and, again, after the proof editor has cast an eye over it. But my lovely editor wanted my first novel by the time she had finished the first chapter, and I want her to feel a similar frisson of excitement over this one.
Which is why if you see me in the next three weeks, I’ll have my head down and may possibly be chuntering to myself, trying to work out if I have tied up every plot detail and whether a character would really make a comment like that. One author recently likened editing a novel to renovating a house: you need to strip out all the dross and the parts that don’t work before you can build something fresh and, hopefully, beautiful or striking. Like any building project three weeks off deadline, I’m still busy with the refurbishment.
Sarah's blog July 2014
If you happen to look up my book on the Waterstone’s website – something I’ve been doing with obsessive regularity - something exciting shows up. Thirty one days until publication, it notes, and next to it is a grey button stating: Coming soon.
It’s really happening. A month tomorrow – or four weeks on Thursday – people will be able to buy my novel, The Art of Baking Blind. I haven’t seen a final copy – in fact it hasn’t been printed yet – but that Waterstone’s reference and the positive reviews on the Goodreads website suggests that I’m not deluded.
It’s been a strange, knuckle-biting couple of months: a bit like the run-up to finals when you know there’s little you can do to change the outcome and you just want the moment of reckoning to arrive. It’s too late for me to change anything and yet it’s been too early for anyone – apart from me – to get really excited about. Perhaps it’s more like waiting for a baby: exactly seven months ago, Hodder bought the book and now we’re entering the eighth month of gestation. And like anyone in their third trimester, I veer between extreme excitement, incredulity and apprehension.
Now, though, with the trickle of reviews coming through, and Hodder beginning to tweet choice quotes, at least it’s starting to feel real. I’m even going to hold a launch party in Cambridge Waterstone’s and a reading in Little Shelford - details for both to follow.
As I try to knuckle down to book two, The Art of Baking Blind’s been sold to publishers in eight different countries – the US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and Brazil. Hodder have created a new paperback cover for readers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland; there will be reviews in Elle and Good Housekeeping, and blogs for Waterstone’s and the Guardian.
But I don’t think it will feel truly real until I get that first hardback copy in my hands. Just as I didn’t truly believe I’d be a mother until my daughter burst into the world, so I think I’ll need to hold it, open it and smell it to know that I’m an author, at last.
I never thought I would be excited by a tea towel. But this week I received two from Hodder and Stoughton which proudly display the cover of my book.
The Art of Baking Blind still won't be published for over three months but the marketing for it has suddenly ratcheted up a gear. A thousand proof copies have been printed and sent to possible reviewers and buyers; postcards displaying choice quotes are being circulated; and, two weeks ago, I finally got to hold a very early version in my hands.
I also went to London to speak at Hodder's annual sales conference - along with Kirsty Wark, another Hodder debut novelist; One Day's David Nicholls; Booker-shortlisted David Mitchell; bestselling Jodi Picoult and a very risque Graham Norton.
Appearing alongside them - and reading from my novel in front of 250 journalists and buyers - was nerve-wracking but surprisingly thrilling. They listened; they applauded; and they laughed in all the right places! OK. So they didn't laugh as much for me as for Graham but I didn't stumble, or mumble, or fall over. All great practice for any future readings in Cambridge and Little Shelford!
Meanwhile, the novel has now been sold to publishers in the US, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil; and will also be available in Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. Next month, I'm off to the London Book Fair in the hope of enticing more foreign publishers to buy it over a cocktail or three there.
Oh...and there's the second book to write. I keep being distracted by the excitement of the first book but am plodding away at it slowly, hoping that, this time next year, I'll be at a similar stage in the cycle: waiting for my novel to be dressed, bound and unleashed on readers once again.
You can read a profile of Sarah Vaughan here.
The Art of Baking Blind
A novel by Sarah Vaughan
Published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton
3rd July 2014, £12.99
Whoever you are Why ever you bake This story’s for you
‘There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.’
It’s 1966 and Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, publishes The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.
Move to the present day, and five amateur bakers are competing to become the new Mrs Eaden.
Jenny is facing an empty nest now her family has flown. Claire has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter. Mike is trying to parent his two kids after his wife’s death. Vicki has dropped everything to be a stay-at-home mum for her baby boy.
And Karen knows what it’s like to have nothing and is determined her perfect façade won’t slip.
As the competition heats up, secrets rise to the surface and making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants’ concerns. For they will learn – as Mrs Eaden did before them, that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it’s very much harder in life…
Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After two years at the Press Association, she spent 11 years at the Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political
correspondent, and then started freelancing. The Art of Baking Blind is her
first novel and she is now working on her second. Sarah lives in Little Shelford with her husband Phil and her two young children.