Today I would like to welcome you all on my stop of the Blog Tour for The Weighing Of The Heart By Paul Tudor Owen and I would like to share a guest post written by the author, with all of you. Thank you very much to Kelly from Love Books Group for the invitation. Please do show some love to all the wonderful book bloggers on this blog tour by following and sharing their work. 🙂
Publisher: Obliterati Press
Genre: General fiction
Release date: 22 03 2019
Price*: Kindle £3.99 (GBP)/ Paperback £8.99 (GBP)
Kindle $4.99 (USD)/ Paperback $12.99 (USD)
Pages: ~ 254
You can get this book here:
Description of the book: Following a sudden break-up, Englishman in New York Nick Braeburn takes a room with the elderly Peacock sisters in their lavish Upper East Side apartment, and finds himself increasingly drawn to the priceless piece of Egyptian art on their study wall – and to Lydia, the beautiful Portuguese artist who lives across the roof garden.
But as Nick draws Lydia into a crime he hopes will bring them together, they both begin to unravel, and each finds that the other is not quite who they seem.
Paul Tudor Owen’s intriguing debut novel brilliantly evokes the New York of Paul Auster and Joseph O’Neill.
Guest Post: Publishing Journey By Paul Tudor Owen
It’s been an exciting few months since my novel The Weighing of the Heart came out, but it definitely felt like it took a long while to get there.
The novel is about a young British guy living in New York called Nick Braeburn, who moves in with a couple of rich older ladies as a lodger in their opulent apartment on the Upper East Side. He gets together with their other tenant, Lydia, who lives next door, and the two of them steal a priceless work of art from the study wall.
The work of art that Nick and Lydia take is an Ancient Egyptian scene, and as the stress of the theft starts to work on them, the imagery of Ancient Egypt, the imagery in the painting, starts to come to life around them, and it’s intended to be unclear whether this is something that is really happening or whether it’s all in Nick’s head.
My wife Eleanor and I have just come back from a few years living in New York, where I was working for the Guardian newspaper, so people usually assume that I based the book based on my own experiences as a Brit in Manhattan. But actually I started it a long time before we ever moved there; it was all part of living out through writing a long-time fantasy I’d had about living in New York, going back to my teens growing up in Manchester, wrapped up in my love for all those great novels and films and songs set in the city – The Great Gatsby, Mean Streets, the music of Simon and Garfunkel.
And I had been writing fiction and trying to get published for a long time before that, starting in my early 20s, when I managed to get an agent and finished a draft of a novel. He was very encouraging and sent it out to publishers, but none of them took it up; reading it back now that seems slightly less outrageous than it did at the time.
So I kept on writing and working on ideas, and eventually around 2011 I started what was going to eventually become The Weighing of the Heart.
I think once I’d written the first couple of chapters I quickly felt quite confident that what I was writing now was much better than anything that I’d written before. I was particularly pleased with the set-up, which I thought was quite gripping immediately.
So I went back to my agent with what I’d written, but by this time, because of the unenthusiastic previous responses, he had more or less lost interest.
So I was faced with a choice. You’re usually told as an author – especially when you’re starting out – that you will never get anywhere without an agent, and that if you have managed to get one you should do everything you can to keep them.
I’m sure there is a lot of truth in that. But I felt that if I stayed with this agent, that was not going to result in this book getting published.
So I amicably cut ties with him and set about trying to find someone new. And luckily that turned out to be a much easier process than it had been in my early 20s. In those days agents had all expected manuscripts to be delivered by post, and I remember every weekend printing out page after page of my chapters, stapling these bundles together, taking them to the post office… It was very time-consuming.
But by the time I came to find a new agent, email had vastly simplified the whole system. I finished work one day and went to a secluded spot in the office, and started working my way from A to Z through The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which lists all the agents in the UK, sending out my first two chapters to as many agents as I could. I think that first night I got about half way through the alphabet, to about M, and by the next morning, or the morning after that, I was already getting some interest, which was really heartening.
And I eventually started working with a brilliant agent called Maggie Hanbury, who I’m still working with now.
And with the input of her team, and of a brilliant professional editor called Ben Evans, who at that time was working for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, I finished a workable draft of The Weighing of the Heart and we started sending it out.
But at that point I had a stroke of bad luck. Another book about art theft in New York – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – had just come out, and it was a massive hit. It was everywhere. Again and again I heard from publishers: “We really like your book, but it’s just too similar to The Goldfinch.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Tartt’s debut novel, The Secret History, was a big influence on me, especially in its tone and pace. And I remember reading the news on my phone on the way to work one day, having started The Weighing of the Heart, and seeing that Tartt had announced she had a new book coming out – a book set in New York, all about the theft of a painting. I distinctly remember thinking: “Oh no, that sounds very similar to my idea. I hope that doesn’t make things difficult for me.”
Momentum slowed down. But one small publisher was still interested, and my agent and I were in discussions with her at the beginning of 2015, when I moved to New York. This publisher really didn’t like the ending, and wanted the book to conclude in what I felt would have been a bit of a heavy-handed manner.
We went back and forth over this, and I asked myself whether I could compromise in order to finally get the book out there. But what often seems to happen when somebody points out a problem like this is that even if you don’t agree with that specific criticism, the process of thinking through the feedback turns up issues that you do feel need to be resolved.
And so I came up with an alternative ending, which didn’t feel like a compromise – it felt like an improvement.
But by this time the publisher had lost interest. And I had just moved to New York and started a new job and life had become extremely busy and complicated, and I don’t think I did any work on the novel or on trying to get it published for the next year or so.
When things started to settle down a bit, I went back to my agent, but she said she didn’t feel that she could send it out to anyone else because a number of publishers had turned it down already.
So again I was faced with a choice. I could just leave the manuscript in my metaphorical desk drawer and get on with something else. But I knew that it was a good book and it felt frustrating that it was sitting there, unread.
So I decided to send it out to small publishers myself. And again I went through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and the US equivalent, Writers’ Market, starting at A and sending out the first two chapters to as many publishers as I could.
And the response was very positive. The received wisdom in the literary world is that publishers will only talk to you if you’ve gone through an agent, and that may well be true for the big publishing houses. But many smaller presses seemed happy to consider my book without an agent being involved.
I had a really productive discussion with Obliterati Press, a small publishing house in the UK set up by two writers whose whole purpose is to get books out there that they feel enthusiastic about, which otherwise might not see the light of day. They agreed to publish it, and it was a great process working with them.
My publication date ended up roughly coinciding with our return to London from New York – and it felt very exciting to be coming back to the UK ready to achieve this ambition that I had been working towards for so long.
About the author: Paul Tudor Owen was born in Manchester in 1978, and was educated at the University of Sheffield, the University of Pittsburgh, and the London School of Economics.
He began his career as a local newspaper reporter in north-west London, and currently works at the Guardian, where he spent three years as deputy head of US news at the paper’s New York office. Paul Tudor Owen’s debut novel The Weighing of the Heart is published by Obliterati Press and has been nominated for the People’s Book Prize 2019 and the Not the Booker Prize 2019
Website: Website: https://paul-tudor-owen.tumblr.com / Twitter: @PaulTOwen / Instagram: @paultowen
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