I’ve finished writing Spring Rain, I've finished everything I have to do with it, it's gone off to be turned into a book! The covers have been designed and illustrated, It’s green, very green, not an easy colour to sell I would think, green doesn’t stand out much and tends to fade to camouflage but, like 'How to Catch a Mole' that glitters grey and gold from the depths of the bookshop stacks I think it works. Only time will tell.

Sometimes there are loose ends in the story - hanging threads from ideas that were not fully formed or passages cut out in an editing stage, I had the final comments and questions about them from the copy editor Mandy this morning and I’ve answered those and snipped them off and I think we have snagged all the little bits out and polished it up and Mandy and I have said our final goodbyes, for this book anyway. We do not meet, we send each other emails and the manuscript goes back and forth

I wanted to illustrate Spring Rain myself and my publisher went for it so I’ve done twelve line drawings that are scattered through the text, they have been sent to Vintage and accepted.

My work is done.

Next will come typesetting and bound page proofs for reviewers. Proofs are sent out to peers who might be willing to review it, other writers, journalists and so on. This is how a newly launched book gets comments on the cover from readers before it has been published. If you can get a respected authors name on the cover it helps. Reviews are massively important in this overcrowded and segmented book market. A good review can launch a book, a bad one kill it and send the author looking for another job. Getting authors to review books for cover blurb is very difficult. Obviously they are all writing their own work and being asked to read outside of the stuff they read for work, and write for free. Being asked to write for free is is the bane of every writers life, the same goes for anybody working in the arts, we are always being asked to work for nothing. A few authors are unfailingly generous and they are soon swamped with proof copies of books 'they might like to review', so if you get even a single comment that’s worth printing then you are very lucky. There is of course an inside thing called ‘barrel rolling’, a writer writes a comment for a book in the full knowledge that the generosity will be reciprocated at a later date by some positive blurb in return. Some genres are more susceptible to this than others. Anyway, we will see what happens, it is always a punt.

Do I write blurb? Yes I do, but only if I love the book. We all have different tastes and if I don't like a book, then it's obviously not for me but may well be for someone else. If you are reading, then you are in my tribe and I do not judge what you read.

How do I feel? I'm excited, very curious to see what the response will be. Tired, excited again about what comes next. Writing is a journey, a wonderful and deeply immersed journey that takes all of my time, effort, energy, imagination, it separates me from the world, as if I were contained in a submarine alone for perhaps two years and it makes me fat. I am fat and need to get off my chair, away from my desk and up onto my feet to do what I really love doing more than anything else in the world. I love to walk, to wander about and have a bite to eat then wander some more and look at stuff and watch the people.

So what is next for me? Walking of course and I am working on some analogue studio photographs and writing a series of poems and reflections to go with them … or am I taking photographs to go with the poems? No idea really, they feed off each other in a creative process. A book? An exhibition? A collection of essays? Who knows I just go where the creative hunger takes me.

I had hoped to spend a year pottering about with poetry and essays but the morning sickness has returned, I have started waking in the early hours again and writing notes so it looks like there might be another book on the way. I think it’s a novel, fiction from head to toe, the old excitement is building! I think should it ever get to publication stage, I may decide to publish it under another name. If you get to read the new book ‘Spring Rain’ out in February 2023 from Harvill Secker / Vintage you will read about a boy called Rain who changes his name and maybe you’ll understand why.

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  • Marc Hamer

Having finished writing Tales of Spring Rain and sent it to my editor, I’ve burned my notebooks as I always do at the end of a project, they are just working notes and are finished with. Burning the notes is a moment of celebration when I can stand over the bonfire with an old fashioned and toast the new book. I have a few weeks before my editor Liz gets in touch, usually she sends me a letter identifying strands, asking questions, making suggestions and then the word-processed document itself comes back full of edits, track changes and so on. I’ve printed and bound my copy and when Liz has got back to me I’ll go to work on that, incorporating and changing it on paper. I do it on paper so I don’t have to sit at a screen doing the same thing over again, I can edit in bed, on a train, in a coffee shop. I’m trying very hard to reduce my screen time, it’s not healthy.

The sitting at my desk and writing part of this job is over for a few weeks. Until Liz comes back with her comments I can just hang out, do a bit of gardening, some office work, neglected tax returns, cooking, cleaning. My bathroom is clean, my floor is mopped, my desk is clear and back to the Zen like purity it has before I started work and while I try to forget all about the book so that I can come back to it as if it were fresh and new to me, my mind fills up in the early waking hours, the unguarded hours with ideas as the underlying themes start to reveal themselves. This is how it always goes, I send the book off thinking I am done with it and as soon as it has gone, the ideas start to flow again. The themes always reveal themselves at the end. That’s how it is with me anyway. Some writers put their work away for six weeks before they send it off. I can’t do that, I’m hungry and over-eager, needy. I send it off before its ready. Perhaps next time I'll be more grown up.

So ... arising while I try to forget the book are some of the themes of the story; getting rid of stuff, discarding the things that hold you back. Throwing out the past, death clearing as the Swedish call it. Pulling things out Marie Condo style and getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy, or as William Morris said: 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful’. The inevitable consequences of such clearing being freedom, happiness, joy. But there's a deeper theme of examining internal things that are not beautiful or useful including thoughts and beliefs, memories, feelings of loss, anger, hatred, fear. Exploring the usefulness of bad thoughts, reactions to bad news and the consequences of that on the individual, on relationships. I think some of these ideas are clear in the text and others are nodded to and need clarifying.

Apart from those themes, this is a Cinderella story, poor Cinders and her hard life she escapes her past, burns it to ashes, leaves her family and their expectations and becomes happy Cinders who is left with a beautiful present. But at a cost. Of course it is all set in a garden, and there's a mole or two, and in this story, Cinders is a man. It is a simple story, I hope you’ll like it.

Before then, I think I have a lot more work to do to make it ready for you.

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  • Marc Hamer

3rd February 2022

Today I sent version 4.0 of ‘Tales of Spring Rain - finding peace’, to my editor. Liz Foley at my publisher Harvill Secker. It is my version 4.0 but to her it is a first draft, she has never seen it before, knows nothing about it other than what I suggested it might be about when I wrote my proposal over a year ago. If you scroll down through all the previous blog posts here you'll see my initial post on 1 March 2021 when I had recently started work on this book and you'll be able to follow some of its progress.

A few weeks ago I’d sent version 3.3 to my Agent, Robert and then had a little holiday over Christmas, visiting family in France. After Christmas Robert came back with lots of excellent observations, things I hadn’t seen, things I hadn’t thought of, observations on how it made him feel. Another agent once observed that when a reader has finished a book they might not hold onto the story, but they certainly hold on to how it made them feel.

In my writing I want to do many things. I know that I work with feelings and firstly I want to help people to feel that no matter what is going on in their lives, or who they are, things will change - things always change - the only permanent thing in life is change and so we can use this change to overcome the problems we face. I want people to be left feeling hope and I also want to leave people feeling wonder, this world is an amazing place to be in, even if it does hurt. I want to give people a sense of all this poetry - and a space while they are reading where they can explore that poetry. I want to write in a way that is poetic and beautiful and I want to tell a story that holds it all together, that has all the elements of story and finally and most importantly for me is that I want my writing to somehow transmit a feeling of inner peace, of peace and calm that will persist when they have finished reading the book. I think it works, I hope it does.

So Robert's observations and suggestions help me to get closer to this, he tells me what he feels doesn’t work, how he reacts emotionally and intellectually to what I have written, he suggests that parts might get rearranged rewritten or cut and I listen to him because I trust him. So a few weeks of slow editing, trashing, cutting and pasting, rewriting. Then I sent it to my Kindle so I could read it as a book and then followed a few more days of cutting, editing & rewriting until I felt that I could do nothing more with it. It is finished.

Except of course it is not, My editor will read it and I will listen to her thoughts and feelings and comments, I trust her too so I will take her ideas on board. I enjoy the editing process especially working with the people I do, it's a dialogue between different minds and the work is now no longer solely mine, it is out, has been presented to people in the world, it is like your child's first day at school.

I don’t always agree with my agent and editor or my wife Kate who is my first reader and when I don’t I fight for it. Books are not written by committee - well, some are but mostly not. When you get close to a piece of work, when it is your days and nights, when it sleeps, wakes eats, and walks with you, when it is the breath you breathe you need somebody to tell you what you have missed or tried to get away with, or escape from, where you have been lazy or forgetful or just wrong. Many writers are by nature solitary, I am one of those and so we can get a bit weird, disconnected and it helps to have it pointed out. Weird and disconnected is not a bad thing, it is just that sometimes we don’t make sense to other people.

So now I’ll wait for my editor to come back with her thoughts ideas and feelings and version 4.1 will be born. I will be happy for a little break while I wait, this is an intense process, a dialogue between us about something that has up until recently been deeply personal work and so this work has now gone a little public and I get to find out if I am mad or not.

Of course what also happens now, personally, as I come to the end of the writing part of this work, is I begin to wonder what I am going to do with my life next.

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