Saturday, December 29, 2007

Well, as you can imagine, it has been somewhat difficult for me to withhold myself from telling people that A Quiet Belief In Angels was selected for the 2008 Winter Richard & Judy Book Club. As has been so widely mentioned in the press (28 newspaper articles at our last count!) the R&J Club is the Holy Grail as far as UK authors are concerned, and has the power to literally propel an unknown author into the mainstream fiction-buying consciousness overnight. To put this into perspective, a standard mass market paperback print-run for a mid-list author (i.e. someone who is being published but is by no means a 'bestseller') averages somewhere between five and ten thousand copies. To meet the initial subscription demands for the R&J promotion a run of 140,000 was printed. That gives you some kind of an idea of what it means. An R&J selection can sell upwards of two hundred thousand copies, and gives an unheard-of author a chance to really make an impression.
And what does it mean for me? Well, for years - in libraries, book clubs, reading and writing groups - I have been saying that we - as a nation of readers - owe a huge debt to Richard and Judy and JK Rowling. My opinion was always that anything, absolutely anything, that in any way contributed to people reading had my unconditional support. I am of the opinion that between them they have done more to get the nation reading than anyone or anything, certainly within my lifetime.
A few weeks ago, when I was made aware that AQBIA had made it down into the last 34 (out of something in the region of 700 submitted titles according to one estimate!) I almost wished that I hadn't been told. When I was informed, about three weeks before the official announcement on the 27th of December, that I had made it down to the last 20, well then I was kind of beside myself with anticipation. Me, my agent and my editor were all on the edge of something. An abyss? A rocket ride? We didn't know. I spoke to my editor on two or three occasions and said that I had spent the entirety of my life 'almost winning'. I said it was about bloody time something happened to change the pattern.
And then it did.
I got a call one evening, a Friday. I had just returned from the dentist where I had undergone the second stage of a particularly lengthy root canal operation. My face was swollen, my head hurt, and my editor was on the line at 6.30 in the evening. This was odd in itself. Usually we talk in recognized office hours. He said "Roger, I have a problem", to which I replied "Oh, what's that?". He then went on to say that he was uncertain as to whether or not this was his very best day in publishing. I knew then. I felt something like a short-fused firework light up in the middle of my body. He said "Because this is the day that I get to tell you that you've made it onto the Richard and Judy List".
Later, after the dust had settled, I spoke to my agent and said that I really didn't know how to feel. I had no framework within which to put my reaction to the news. I said that I'd be far more able to understand the sense of disappointment that I would have felt had we not made it (and oh, how I felt for the ten guys and girls that were informed that they had made it into the last 20, and then found out that they had not secured a place in the final 10!), but to have made it... To have succeeded at this most auspicious and desirable thing... To be in a situation where you now know that so many more people are going to read something you have written, and to be in a position where the only reason you ever ventured out into this foolish and irresponsible business was to have people read what you wrote in the first place...
That means the world to me.
More than anything I have yet achieved, it means the world to me.
So thank you to all those involved - the readers, the selection team, Amanda Ross, Alastair Giles, the Richard & Judy team, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan themselves, Cactus TV, and all those who played their part, and have played their part in this marvellous institution for the past many years.
And just because one of my books has now been selected doesn't change the degree to which I supported and argued for and felt the necessity to defend and promote the R&J Book Club. I've done that for years, and will now continue for years more. Why? Because it got people reading again. It got people looking at books they would otherwise have ignored, and it opened the door for so many more people to find things that they could now be passionate about.
Something in the region of a thousand books are published every month. Go into Smiths or Waterstones, and if you don't know what you want, don't know what you're looking for, it can actually be overwhelming. It's that old sales saw - give someone too much choice and they choose nothing. Well, the Richard and Judy Book Club gives people a chance to try something new. It says 'Have a go at might like it, you might not, but for a significantly reduced cost you might actually luck into a whole genre of reading that you haven't considered before'. And that's got to be good.
So, to close, I am off to Georgia to make the little documentary section for the Richard & Judy Show on the 17th of January, and then we air on the 30th.
I hope you watch. I hope you give the book a go, and that you enjoy it.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement over the past years, and hopefully I'll see you at a reading or a library tour somewhere along the road.
Take care, speak soon, best wishes.


Adam Bird said...

Hi Roger.

I recently found your book "A Quiet Belief of Angels" listed on Amazon.

With it's Richard and Judy book club endorsement coupled with LOTS of amazing reviews I ordered my copy.

I am only half way through at the moment and I can safely say that it is high up there with one of the best books I have read!

I will indeed by adding your other novels to my growing library and look forward to your future releases.

I am glad that this novel was chosen as part of the bookclub, and will continue to pay attention to the titles in this list.

All the best.

Adam Bird

R J Ellory said...

Many thanks Adam. It's actually great to hear back from someone who's reading the book. The R&J thing is tremendous of course, but in all honesty the biggest buzz about the whole thing is that it changes the entire playing field as far as the future is concerned. It's a precarious and uncertain business (I think it was Hemingway who said that being a novelist made horseracing and playing poker look like sensible business ventures!), and finally - after many years - to be in a situation where you know that what you write is actually going to get published is very rewarding. Thank you again for your very kind words, and perhaps when you've finished the book you could stick your thoughts on Amazon too!
Best wishes Adam, and thanks again,

siobhan said...

hi there roger,
i love r&j's books but before i even saw it on yours i knew i had fallin in love with it the name and the summary on the back just said read it!!!! and i did fall in love with it ive finished it a week ago and im still thinkin about it. never saw any of your books before and now im a true fan have ordered a copy of city of lies and cant wait to read it. congrats and god bless. cant wait for the next one.

R J Ellory said...

OTH1Siobhan...a most wonderful name! Oddly enough, one of my favourite names ever! Great to hear from you, and thank you very much for your very kind words. I hope that the other books please you as much. I am actually in Georgia right now, literally a handful of miles from the Okefenokee swamp where we completed the film section for the Richard & Judy show to be aired on 30.01.08. Yesterday and today I have driven through Folkston, Kingsland, through Jesup, Charlton and Waycross counties, and it's been very moving. A most excellent few days. Anyway, thank you again for reading the book and letting me know what you thought of it. Stay in touch, and let me know what you make of 'City of Lies' (which is very different!)
Best wishes, and take care,

loveleelaydee said...

Im a huge reader anyway but always have a look at R&Js recommendations.

While im rarely disappointed I have been totally blown away by a quiet belief in angels. Its a fantastic story, great use of language and has kept me up into the wee small hours so i could finish it.

Was stunned to find you are not an American as the descriptions of Josephs life and landscape seems so true to life.

Many thanks for writing this book - it's been a joy to read (even if I am exhanusted!) and I will definitely be trying your other titles.


R J Ellory said...

Many thanks for your message! Very much appreciated, and I am thrilled that you enjoyed the book. Coincidentally, I have just returned yesterday from Georgia where I was at the Okefenokee Swamp, down in Folkston, Kingsland, and the many other towns in the book. A truly extraordinary, and very different part of the world! Anyway, you'll have to let me know how you get along with the other books. My best wishes, and thank you again for your very kind words.

Jo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo said...


I've just finished reading A Quiet Belief in Angels and I thought it was brilliant. I've been following Susan Hill's 'creative writing course' on her blog and she recommended we look at the Richard and Judy list, anyway I have one question. In A Quiet Belief shortly after Joseph meets Hennesey for the first time Joseph says something along the lines of 'if he'd known the effect Hennesey would have had on his life he'd have left the room straight away', I was just wondering what you meant by this?

Actually sorry one more question, you wrote about Georgia very convincingly, so much so I had assumed you were American. As an 'aspiring author' I have issues about how much research is necessary, i.e. too little and the story is not convincing and too much and you're procrastinating (which I am very good at). I was just wondering how much research you did to get Georgia 'right'?



PS I deleted the last message as I realised it contained mild spoilers!

R J Ellory said...

Thanks for your e-mail, and I'm really pleased you enjoyed the book. So what did I mean by that comment? Well, for many years Joseph consigned hismelf to being in prison, almost to the point where he accepted the fact that that was the end of his life. It was Hennessy who forced him to write the manuscript that ultimately got him released, and thus - once released - he had to go back to Georgia and confront the ghosts of his past. Ultimately it was the right thing to do, the thing he needed to do, but in its first consideration it feels as though this is the very last thing he wants to do, hence the thought that it would have been better not to have associated with Hennessy in the first place. Also, to a smaller degree, Joseph winds up with Bridget because of Hennessy's insistence that he find a muse to inspire his work. In finidng her he loses her, and the perpetrator of the original Augusta Falls killings deliberately invades his life once again. And as far as research is concerned, the best advice I was ever given was "wear your learning lightly", i.e. do enough research to demonstrate that you know what you're talking about, not so much as to make your work of fiction sound like a travel guide or a treatise of cultural and political history!
I hope that answers your question. If you have some more questions, send me an e-mail through the 'Contact Me' option on the website front-page and I can help some more. Thank you for your kind words Jo - it means a great deal.
My very best wishes in return.
Take care,

Jo said...

Thank you for your reply Roger!


R J Ellory said...

You're very welcome Jo, and like I said - if there's anything else you think I might be able to help you with then please e-mail through the site and I'll get back to you right away!
Take care, and best wishes,