Well, here we are 1 year since the UK launch of of my debut novel, The Girl from the Hermitage. I haven’t posted on my blog in quite a while so I thought I would take a bit of time to look back on the rollercoaster year of being a debut novelist.
While publishing a novel has not been wildly lucrative, the experience of putting my book baby out into the world has been rewarding in many other ways. There have been pleasant surprises throughout a year which has been such a difficult time for everyone.
In no particular order, here are some of the highlights:
1. My hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan has been wonderful. Over this past year I have felt so very far away from my parents and my roots but Kalamazoo has come through to support me in many ways. I’ve received encouragement from former teachers, friends, family and the community at large. I had a brilliant digital session with the Kalamazoo Russian Cultural Association. Bookbug has kept my novel stocked on their shelf. And the Kalamazoo Institute of Art invited me to speak at their book club. All of these events have contributed to make Kalamazoo the epicentre of my US sales. I know I can count on the Zoo!
2. Comradery with other authors. Early on in 2020, my friend and fellow author Louise Fein got me involved with a brilliant debut author group. Throughout the year, we have supported, commiserated, and celebrated together. We’ve created promotional opportunities and have had a good laugh. Publishing is a crazy industry and it is great to know that we can have a good moan in the safety of our Facebook group. This talented group of authors have produced a wide variety of books and you can see our powerhouse of publications on our bookshop page.
3. Stretching out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned so many new skills since writing my debut. I made this website. I’ve become comfortable with public speaking. I’ve set up digital events on Eventbrite. I didn’t even know how to use Twitter and Instagram before all of this kicked off! It has been brilliant to stretch and grow in a year that made our worlds smaller and smaller.
4. Hearing from readers has been a delight. I love getting messages from readers who have enjoyed my book. And they always seem to land in my mailbox right when I need it the most. My Girl may have resonated or reached a reader in a very personal way or perhaps they simply enjoyed reading it. Here’s a flavour of some of the messages I’ve received:
· My dad was born in Russia (he came to the US in 1910) and I wish he were here to read The Girl from the Hermitage..
· As an 84 year old watercolourist with everything I need to begin oil painting except the courage to put a canvas on the easel, I was inspired by all the descriptions of Galina and her father preparing to paint.
· I have never been to Russia or St Petersburg but I felt as if I was there at every moment. And I so loved most of the characters, Mikhail, Galina, Boris - all painted with such a fine brush.
· I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I was transported back to our days in the Russia of the 1990’s, to the stories of artists we met just trying to survive in the new Russia and to the progeny of prisoners of the gulags.
· The Girl from the Hermitage is a great story. It has incredibly interesting characters, is well-written, and was very hard to put down each night because it kept me wanting to read more! This was a perfect book for me.
· I lived in the former Soviet Union the same years you lived in Moscow. I so enjoyed your description of the foods, seeing the words I remember and the experience of life there.
· It is wonderful. I loved the real characters, the captivating story, the Russian setting and history and the painting. You must be an artist as well as an author as I felt as though I was doing the painting as you described the character painting.
· Incredibly touching, subtle and beautiful book. I’m so glad I discovered this wonderful American author with an understanding of the Russian soul and culture.
It has been a great year, despite all the noise and anxiety of our poxy world. And I am thrilled that The Girl from the Hermitage has made its way into so many hands. To everyone who has bought my book, enthusiastically recommended it to people, taken it out from the library, given it as a gift, written a review or posted about it on social media, I thank you! Debut authors need as much help as we can muster and I’ve had so many people go out of their way to give my book a little boost. THANK YOU. And happy birthday to my Hermitage Girl.
Have I mentioned The Girl from the Hermitage makes an excellent Christmas gift???