What Heraclitus means, of course, is that if you step into the river again… even only a fraction of a second after stepping out of it… then although it might look like the same river on the surface, it won’t be the same, because the water you stepped into last time has already flowed downstream, whereas the water you are stepping into now is new water that you’ve never experienced before. (At least, not unless last time you stepped into the river further upstream, then jumped out again, and ran faster downstream than the water flows, and timed it so you stepped in again at just the right moment when your original water caught up… but that is all rather exhausting to get your head around!)
My time out of the water watching the publishing river flow past, while undeniably frustrating, has shown me a few important things. First, for a children’s author, the river flows faster than it does for those of us who write adult books. We cannot (however hard we try) hold on to our fan base, any more than a mother can stop her children from growing up. The 9-year-olds who will be reading my Pendragon books were not even born when my debut novel Song Quest was published back in 1999. They might be the same age as those 9-year-olds who enjoyed Song Quest, but they are clearly not the same children.
I rode the rapids when Song Quest won the Branford Boase Award and I signed a seven book contract (on the same day!), and a year later flew to San Francisco to launch my second children's book Spellfall at the American Libraries Association conference. With several years of deadlines lined up and a lovely agent - Maggie Noach - on board, I got swept into the middle of the publishing river without even realising it, and the water was, on the whole, life-sustaining. Then at some stage - and I still don't know what I did wrong, because I never stopped writing - I found myself washed up on the bank. That taught me the second thing about publishing: a contracted book (or two or – in my case – twelve) does not a career make. Meanwhile, those publishing waters kept rushing noisily downstream, and those still swimming in them probably didn’t have time to notice, but a new stream appeared, quietly trickling alongside only visible to those of us sitting on the bank… ebooks and amazon's Kindle. In the absence of either publisher or agent, I dipped my toe into that little stream and sipped of its waters. It kept me alive.
|Templar hardcover, 2012|
So here I am! On the wonderful History Girls blog and elsewhere on the net, spending almost as much time writing these blog posts as writing my books. I’d much rather be sorting out the tricky plot holes in the middle of Book 3, which is carrying me downstream towards its deadline at an alarming rate. But I'm swimming again, and that’s got to be better than sitting on the bank thirsting for the publishing waters. (Though now, of course, I am a bit afraid of missing something that can only be seen from the bank...)
Thank you, Heraclitus, I think I understand now. And thank you, Templar, for inviting me back into the water!
Sword of Light is published by Templar in hardcover on 1st February.
Song Quest is republished by Catnip in paperback, also 1st February.
Meanwhile, you can follow Rhianna Pendragon on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl
Details of my other books (many now available as reasonably-priced ebooks for Kindle) can be found on my website at http://www.katherineroberts.co.uk/