Saturday, 14 January 2012


The Sterkarm Handshake and A Sterkarm Kiss by Susan Price
          I have finished the first draft of Sterkarm 3!
          I know some of you already know this, but I’m still performing happy dances whenever I remember it.
          It’s been three years.  I started work on it early in 2009, the year I also started work for the Royal Literary Fund.
          RLF work slowed the writing down, but not by much.  Writing a book is a long, slow business.
          My Sterkarm books are set on the Western borders of Scotland and England, a place of high moors and steep valleys, many streams and much rain.
          It comes easily to me to compare the writing of this book – of all books – to being lost in this country with only the faintest idea of which way I should go.  I set off, scrambled up a steep hillside, with much panting, while being scratched by heather twigs and briars.  I stumbled into bog-holes, lost a boot, limped on, got to the top, and paused to hear the larks singing.
The Sterkarm Handshake
          Then realised I’d gone the wrong way and needed to slither all the knee-jarring way down again and climb up the opposite hill.
(And I have done all that in the real world, so I don’t make the comparison lightly.)
          In three years, only occasionally have I seen the way clear and followed an easy, well-marked path – and have sometimes found that even well-marked easy paths can end in a thorny broom thicket.  (But does any bush have such a gloriously yellow flower?  Does any other British flower smell of coconut?)
          It’s been exhausting, but I don’t know any other way to get a book written.  Even if you set off with a map and a sat-nav – well, both can be misleading.
           Even now I’m not finished.  I have 110,000 words to read through and rewrite.  I’m looking forward to it – rewriting is always the best part – and dreading it at the same time.  (What if three years’ struggle produced nothing but bunk?)
          I hope to find out what the story’s about.  For three years I’ve been concentrating on plot, which means asking myself where did I last leave Andrea, and why is Sweet Milk, when I need him, miles away on another hillside, asleep?
A Sterkarm Kiss
          I intend to wait at least a month before I even look at it.  I hope a close reading will reveal, among all the plot, a theme.
          The first two Sterkarm books, The Sterkarm Handshake and A Sterkarm Kiss, are now out of print.
          I don't know what will happen to the Sterkarm books now.  My agent is looking for another publisher but, who knows if they'll find one?
          Would anyone, I wonder, like a look at the first chapter of Sterkarm 3, in rough?

          Read an interview with Susan Price about the writing of the Sterkarm books here.

          And here's Blott - 


Joan Lennon said...

Blott should have been wearing a seat belt.

I'd love to have a look at Chapter 1 of Sterkam 3 - I'd also love to know what you're calling the book - and huge congratulations for finishing the first draft! That's an achievement worthy of a warm fuzzy glow all right.

Abi Burlingham said...

I can completely relate to this post Susan - it can be a long hard slog can't it? But so rewarding when you reach the top of that mountain. Good luck with the book!

Lynne Garner said...

Congratulations on finishing the first draft - feel like doing a little dance on your behalf. It's a great feeling - take pleasure in it and then get on that editing ;-)

Penny Dolan said...

Think there must be lots of happy dances going on just now! Really identify with that scrambling through a thicket feeling. All good wishes to Vol III!

madwippitt said...

Read an advance chapter? Do wippitts wee in the woods? Where's the queue so we can push, shove and nip our way through to the front!

PS Lucky for Blott he didn't split his infinitive too ...

Juliet said...

Can't wait to read this! I love the first two books. Publishers would be mad not to be scrapping furiously for it.

Freyalyn said...

Except it's not broom that smells of coconut, it's gorse. Broom is another thing entirely - still yellow, but not spiky and not coconutty. Sorry!

Susan Price said...

Thanks, Freyalyn - you know, I've always struggled with the difference between broom and gorse. Think I've got it, then find I haven't.
Thanks everyone - I shall put the first rough chapter up next week.
Oh - and Madwippit - Adam laughed his socks off at your 'split infinitive'. And so did I.

Katherine Langrish said...

Yay, yay, yay - can't wait for this! And Blott - wear a seat belt!

Farrell said...

Book title to stick with the theme and the ending of a sterkarm kiss: a sterkarm embrace??

Farrell said...

As for what a sterlarm embrace is: i see it as using one arm to stab someone and then using the other arm to embrace and pull the unfortunate opponent onto the blade

Susan Price said...

That's an interesting thought, Farrel... I like the explanation! A Sterkarm Cuddle? A Sterkarm Hug? - Thanks!