About the Author
Exclusive Author Essay
I was off sick with a serious illness for some considerable time and spent my days writing Misadventures. I raced through the pages, writing at top speed until I had finished. I sent 30 pages of the completed manuscript to several publishers and to a few agents, without success. Finally an agent returned the work to me, saying, "Although the material is interesting, it is clear you are not a professional writer." I took a long, hard look at my work and saw the point he was making. In some instances I had even used slang. I paid attention to his comments and sat down and rewrote Misadventures to the best of my ability, frequently spending three hours on each page. I then sent my work to a few more agents, again without success. I received replies such as: "We cannot see a market for it" or "It isn't the type of book we would try and publish."
Finally I sent Misadventures to the tenth agent, Peters, Fraser & Dunlop. Jeremy, "the slush reader," read the pages with great interest and passed them to Caroline Dawnay, who phoned me and asked me to bring the complete manuscript to her offices. She was so pleased with my work she told me she would try to find a suitable publisher to publish it, and she is now my agent. She is also Nick Hornby's agent.
Caroline spent a year sending Misadventures to various publishing houses. She finally contacted Canongate, a small company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were very excited about my work and said they'd like to publish it. One week before Christmas 1999, Caroline phoned me with the good news. In the New Year, Jamie Byng of Canongate flew to London and made time to see me. Caroline had already told me that the staff of Canongate were under 35 and that Jamie was the chairman. I expected to meet a smartly dressed young man wearing a suit and a sleek haircut. I was not prepared to meet a casually dressed young man with a mop of long, curly, and very unruly hair, who smoked incessantly.
A month before my official publication date, Canongate's publicity department sent copies of my book to all the newspapers in the U.K. I was amazed at the response. I was billed as "a literary sensation," and suddenly everyone wanted to know me. My diary was full, as I tried to fit in all the journalists who were eager to interview me, followed by their photographers and lengthy photo shoots. I was astounded when I was invited to appear on television. I made two recordings. One was for a show called Open House, which I would describe as a "live magazine," and the second was on Channel 5 news. I was extremely nervous on both occasions. I was also invited to participate in a radio show and found it fun. More attention came my way. I was invited to appear on a further three live TV shows. But as I was so nervous on the two recordings previous, I turned the three offers down, as I thought I'd be too frightened to speak.
After all the media interest, I would meet acquaintances in the street and they would say "I read about you the other day". Even the checkout girls in the supermarket told me they saw me on TV! (Sylvia Smith)