Tag Archives: writer

The name game

If you were going to be an author, what would your pen name be?  It’s a fun game to play.  I’ve published books as Josie Lloyd and Jo Rees, but for my latest venture, I’m going out as Joanna Rees.  So posh.  So grown up.

Yep, finally, after all these years, I’ve left behind my maiden name and nickname and I’m writing under my full and proper monica.  The thumb twiddling is over, people.  It’s back to work for me.

This is what it says this week in the press:

Wayne Brookes at Pan Macmillan has acquired UK/Commonwealth rights to two new novels from Joanna Rees via Vivienne Schuster and Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown. Rees will move from Transworld to Pan Macmillan for her next novel, TORN, to be published in spring 2012.

Brookes said: “Torn is epic storytelling at its very best, and as soon as I read the first chapters I knew I had to have it. Full of glamour, corruption, murder and romance, this is what a real blockbuster novel should be. It spans the decades, taking sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Torn is like your favourite soap opera all wrapped into one mammoth novel and will appeal to fans of Penny Vincenzi and everyone who found themselves devouring the pages of Kane and Abel.”

Rees commented: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to become a Macmillan author and delighted to be working with a creative editor of the calibre of Wayne Brookes. Torn is my most ambitious project to date and I feel very lucky to have the expertise of the excellent Macmillan team behind it.”

So there you have it.  Great news for what’s supposed to be the most depressing week of the year.

Anyway, I mention it, because I’ve started practising signing my own again – something I haven’t done since I was eight, when writing one’s signature endlessly seemed like an essential thing to do.  It helps that Emlyn bought me a Mercedes for Christmas – a pen – not a car (damnit). It’s a chunky silver thing with funky burgundy ink.  TORN, by Joanna Rees looks particularly good in it.  And they say writers are narcissistic…

But the nuance of names is very important.  Now I’m fully into writing TORN, I spent lots of my day deciding what to call my cast of thousands.  Of course, names do fall in my path.  The name of the bully in school – she’s in as the arch bitch.  The woman who was snotty about my credit card bill payment being overdue (not my fault)  – she’s in too.  You cross me lady, you get botched plastic surgery.

Seriously, you’d be surprised how many fictional serial killers are named after real-life traffic wardens.

Emlyn and I once did a book signing in Amsterdam and this very handsome man turned up called Fox Mulder.  It happened that we were renting his house.  At the time the X Files were huge and we thought it was great he was called after the lead.  It turned out that his assistant at work was called Dana Sculy.  He suspected that the script writers for the X Files had nicked the employee list of the IBM Corporate Law department.

So if you have any good names, sling them my way.  Today I’m after a New York wedding planner, an impotent lawyer and a Soho pimp.   I can’t use my ex-boyfriends, but I could use yours…? Suggestions please.


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Foisting myself out into the great unknown

Well Hello! This is my first ever blog. I feel a bit weird about writing it, foisting myself out into the great unknown. Somehow with books, it’s more civilized. By the time my words are written, edited, polished and published I feel a reassuring distance from them. If I happen to see a punter in a bookshop pick up one of my books, then after the initial adrenalin rush, the only panic I feel is because I can’t recall the character’s names or remember how to pitch my novel well. There’s a vague sense of pride, but the words in the book have nothing to do with me anymore. Whereas this…well this is immediate. Scary. There might be…feedback.

As a writer, feedback is a tricky area. Asking for it never turns out as you expect it to.  I’ve learnt never, ever to ask someone in a bookshop if they’re going to buy my book. It terrifies them and puts them in a horrible spot. Quite often they refuse to believe that you’re actually the author, as if anyone might pose as an author for fun.  People also don’t expect authors to actually talk, as if talking and writing are mutually exclusive. I suppose people assume that female authors ought to be bouffy and dressed in a white power suits and bespectacled and tweedy if they’re a man.  The last time I told someone they were holding my novel in their hands, they demanded proof of ID.  So I had to get out my bank card, dropping nappy wipes and baby milk in the process.  So terribly glam.  They didn’t buy my book.

But nevertheless the desire for feedback is undeniably strong. When Come Together came out, Emlyn and I stalked a man in Manchester train station who was reading our book. He remained glued to the pages all through the ticket buying, through the barrier, onto the train. He didn’t stop reading, but he didn’t laugh once. By London, even though he hadn’t looked up from our carefully crafted comedy, we were both despairing and Emlyn refused to let me grill the poor bloke as to why he hadn’t so much as smiled. It was just as well, as it turned out later that he was a critic.  He said our book was hilarious. Never trust the critics, I say.

The next time I saw someone reading our book, Emlyn wasn’t on hand to stop me. I marched up to the poor unsuspecting woman on the beach and asked her if she was enjoying the book in her sandy hands. She said that she was, but was quite confused that I’d asked. Again, I guess you don’t expect to see an author in a bikini. When I told her that I’d written that very tome with Emlyn, I turned to introduce him and saw that he’d disappeared into the sea with our daughter and looked as if he was swimming the channel to get away from his embarrassing wife. And this is a man who hates cold water. The woman left the beach almost immediately and I was left standing there, scratching my head.

So I guess you have to be thick-skinned when it comes to feedback. I saw one of my books on a second-hand stall on the beach front the other day. My eldest asked the stall-holder how much it was. He said a pound, but she could have it for fifty pence, as it wasn’t very good!

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