It’s an extraordinary thing having two very different books published in one year, and it would be quite impossible for me to choose my favourite. My first, The Water Doctor’s Daughters, has a special place in my heart due to its content. I became so emotionally involved with the Marsden children and their tragic story. This book is dedicated to my mother Myra, whose love of history influenced me so strongly.
And yet Myra’s humour and unquenchable spirit also has a strong presence in my second book, All Along the River: Tales from the Thames, dedicated to my darling partner Rob (aka Dr Bob).
The WDD had its time in the sun (well…snow) when it was launched in unseasonably freezing Great Malvern in March. It had a second wonderful debut at Sydney’s Ashfield Library several months later. A push from an article in our local Blue Mountains newspaper was also much appreciated. But despite being traditionally published it was quite a struggle getting the book into bricks and mortar bookshops. I was also painfully new to the whole marketing circus of social media, reviews, radio interviews, public speaking etc.
But what a special moment it was to see the book in the iconic Blackwells in Oxford, almost opposite the Bodleian Library, where I did much of my research. Of course its ‘home’ bookstore is the wonderful Malvern Book Cooperative. A great review by the UK historian Edward James was another huge plus. My publishers entered the book in a couple of literary competitions, including the London based Wellcome Trust Prize, for books with a medical theme. Good luck, my dear little Marsdens, I’ve tried to do my best for you.
By the beginning of August Rob and I were back in the UK and our attention had shifted to the more lighthearted Thames book. What a memorable launch we had in riverside Marlow. Somehow AATR appears to be having an easier run, helped by our dear Marlow friend John Pritchard, and by the support of many lovely readers who had already enjoyed the WDD. It was also featured at the London Book Fair, which may account for its appearance on dozens of on-line book-sites around the world. I was like an excited child seeing it in major London bookstores such as Stanfords at Covent Garden and Blackwell’s, in Charing Cross Road.
It is also available at Blackwell’s Oxford store. The ‘home’ book store this time is The Bell Bookshop in Henley-on-Thames. Despite being a paperback and thus cheaper than the WDD, it is larger and heavier, and just as beautifully produced. The paper is glossy and there are 60 plus photographs (mostly colour). By the way, there is a competition relating to the book being held right now by the website Historical Honey. The prize is a signed copy of the book. You can enter via their Facebook page (just google it) or via their twitter account – @HistoricalHoney. Good luck!
It seemed that the WDD was in danger of being outshone by its younger ‘sibling’ until I had some truly wonderful news on August 16th. The book has been long-listed in the prestigious, $20,000 Waverley Library Literary Prize. Good heavens! I had to keep checking the announcement in the Bookseller and Publisher Magazine to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. No…there it was, listed in the final 15 of some 160 entries beside Hannah Kent’s block-buster Burial Rites and Robert Drewe’s Montebello.
Will it make it to the short-list of 6? Well, that would be a dream come true of course, but I honestly don’t expect it too. Nor will I mind, as it has already far exceeded my expectations. The validation of being long-listed means so much to me. I also hope the recognition will attract more mainstream reviews, and a stronger presence in physical bookstores. Yes, I know it’s on Amazon and all those sites, but I’m a traditionalist!
So here are my two books. So much time and effort invested in them, not only by me but by Rob, and my editor at Robert Hale, Nikki Edwards. If you have read them both, which is your favourite? If you haven’t (YET!), then which interests you more? Do leave a message in the comment box, but remember to complete the anti-spam sum before pressing ‘submit’.