Category Archives: books

This Book is Dedicated

I’ve always been fascinated by dedications in books. There’s the intriguing possibility that they are clues to something hidden. Probably private. Possibly intense. Potentially the whole reason for the book. Thrilling or what?

stuffed bookcase

This is the second time I’ve returned to the subject in this blog. First time round I wrote about a range of books, only some of which I knew really well. No, let’s be honest. One of which I detested.

This time I’m writing about one of my great loves. Twice, under pressure of space, I’ve cleared out copies from my bookshelf, believing that I wouldn’t need to read them again. Twice I’ve bought new copies.

Which Work?

Dedicated to Dorothy GanapathyThis is a dedication which intrigues me enormously. I was reminded of it by the recent sad news that  Tim Pigott-Smith has died. He played the ambiguous and haunting villain Merrick in the BBC’s epic series about the end of the Raj, The Jewel In the Crown. 

The series was based on Paul Scott’s mighty Raj Quartet. 

Paul Scott dedicatorDedicated by Whom?

In the 1950s Scott was a literary agent at Pearl, Pollinger and Hingham (which became David Higham Associates) and a middling sort of novelist. I fell over him by picking up The Chinese Love Pavilion in the library and finding a story that was equally alienating (I had never even imagined such people — well, men — existed and it took me a while to come to terms with that fact that they did) and compelling. In spite of the alienating gender, the novel held me spellbound in its drama, its feeling for landscape and climate, its sheer conviction.

Something about his style, too, fascinated me and I read more until at last I came to the Jewel in the Crown. No longer alienated, I couldn’t stop reading, until I had finished the last volume.

Origins of the Raj Quartet

In the early 60s, Scott began to plan what became the Raj Quartet. Professor Peter Green recalls in his touching and illuminating consideration of the quartet that it was originally meant to be one book. Then in the middle of The Day of the Scorpion, (book 2, published 1968) it became three, before coming to rest at four with The Towers of Silence (1971) and A Division of the Spoils (1975).

Dedicated to the RIASC?

Richard Dimbleby, with Royal Indian Army, Syria, 1942

Scott had been an air supply captain in the Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC) in India from 1942. So he had witnessed in situ the crucial period following the fall of Singapore, and the resulting military, social, racial and political crises of the faltering Raj. But — memory is not always reliable and, anyway, a junior rank soldier’s experience was not sufficient for his grand purpose in planning his epic on personal relationships, moral conflicts and identity crises of his huge cast.

Dedicated to Whom?

His publishers, Heinemann, arranged for him to go back to India for 6 weeks’ research in 1964. (Those were the days!) Dorothy Ganapathy, “the best of hostesses” , looked after him in Bombay. Scott dedicated Book 1, The Jewel in the Crown (1966) to her. No explanation, no specific thanks, just the name.

incl dedicated to Dorothy GanapathyPreliminary digging is tantalising. According to Zareer Masani in Indian Tales of the Raj, her father was Sir Hari Singh Gaur, Leader of the Opposition in the Central Legislative Assembly. In the 1930s she herself earned a degree from Durham University. She married a colonel in the Indian Medical Service. But neither of them was permitted to go into the Europeans-only Adyar Club in Madras, to her justified contempt. And she bitterly despised the under-educated memsahibs for patronising her own use of English, which was far superior to their own.

A Falling Out

Letter including Dedicated ToMost intriguing of all, though, is that, while Scott and Mrs Ganapathy clearly developed a close friendship during his time in India, they also had a mega falling out, as revealed in his own letters, edited in 2 volumes by Janis Haswell.

He reports that she suddenly gave him a “terrible slap in the face”. The cause? Scott had been considerate to her estranged sister. Mrs Ganapathy expected him to be 100% on her side in the dispute. In her view, he had let her down. She accused him of disloyalty, and labelled it typically British.

So maybe he dedicated the book to her for more than her great kindness to him in Bombay. Maybe it was a way of making amends, too.

There is clearly a good deal of further research to do here. I have not read Hilary Spurling’s biography, for instance, which I really want to do. Although first I want to re-read the whole Raj Quartet. Maybe this time I might even re-read the coda, which won the Booker Prize and I never really enjoyed: Staying On. 

Dedicated WHY?

Dedicated Ganapathy

But at this stage I am telling myself a story about the dedication. It’s not even a working hypothesis of a decent bit of research. It’s pure fictional What If. And I’m enjoying, so I will share.

For I, too, am writing a book which turned from one to two, maybe three, who knows … And in that process, people have touched my imagination in ways I never foresaw. And they send me off down new roads into the past.

They show me unsuspected aspects of my characters and even wholly new players in the story.

One Possible Story

So what if Mrs Ganapathy was one of those? She sounds as if she had the fire to do it. She and Scott were in India at the same time, moving in very different circles, but looking out from their circle to all those others. What if six weeks of her conversation drew the curtain on those other dimensions he had seen but not understood?

Zohra Segal, Lady Chatterjee in BBC’s Jewel in the Crown

I see her as inspiring the beautiful English of Hari Kumar, which inspires one of the saddest and most profound moments of the books. I see her and her sister with their pre-war memories, giving him Lady Chatterjee. She is opinionated, wise, and morally certain. She is equally sympathetic and terrifying. Yet even she is not wholly comfortable in her changing world.

Except for the innocents, like missionary teacher Barbie Batchelor, identity is a matter of constant compromise and negotiation.

Oh, and a bonus — the late and wondrous Zohra Segal who played Lady Chatterjee on television, had a life to rival anyone in Scott’s epic saga.

 

Crossing Cultures and an Author Panel

Author panel participants

Earlier this month a publisher invited me to chair an Author Panel. There were four of them, all just publishing that difficult second novel. We were to meet at Waterstone’s Piccadilly and they would discuss Love and Romance Across Cultures. Their own experience and writing gave them the basic material. It sounded a blast. But I havered… Continue reading

dedicated to the one I love

Dedicating to the One You Love – or Are You?

 

Trumpets dedicating

Dedicating a book to someone is powerful. It’s an announcement with trumpets.

We’ve all read the thanks that go on for several pages. They embrace everyone from the author’s family, agent and editor, to anyone who gave them help with research or did the typing.

Justified? Probably. Sincere? Mostly. But a dedication? No. Continue reading

Be My Valentine? I Don’t Think So

old laptop with valentineWhen email was new and spam was something you found in school lunches, I once got a message on my hefty laptop headed “Be My Valentine?”

I deleted it, unopened.

With a shudder. And I’d never even heard of viruses then. I just didn’t want to go there. Continue reading

An International Cover Story

A Cover Story begins  . . .

cover story -- UK cover of A Regency Invitation 2004

original UK cover 2004

Once upon a time, three writers of Mills & Boon Historicals got together to write a book. The three were Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland (me!), and Elizabeth Rolls. This is the cover story of that book of three interlinked novellas —
A Regency Invitation.

This blog is not about how the book was written, though we had great fun doing it, creating three love affairs and two mysteries at our Regency house party. No, this post is about the book’s cover — where it started, how it changed over time, and how different international markets adapted the cover look of A Regency Invitation to suit their readers.

Want to know how the Japanese market presents a romance set in Regency England? You can see it further down. And it may surprise you. Continue reading

Goblin Court, Past and Present

Goblin Court cover by Sophie WestonIn one way, the whole of my writing life is encapsulated in Goblin Court, past and present.

Reading Goblin Court cat on lapGoblin Court was my second book and it is still, umpty um years later, a story that people email and talk to me about with real affection. That is like having a cat sit on your knee in front of a blazing fire at Christmas and purr hard — flattering, comforting, magical, a gift! In fact, it’s the best sort of gift that any author can have, I think. I am terribly grateful.

Goblin Court First 

Continue reading

Why go Indie? Joanna Maitland’s answers

This post on Going Indie was originally a guest piece on Sue Moorcroft’s blog. Many thanks to her for letting us repost it here, complete with new thoughts, several months on…

Back in November 2015, I wrote:

Why go indie? At the risk of stating the obvious, I’d say the answer is freedom.

indie has freedom

Freedom to ride off into the sunset. What’s not to like?

Here’s an example of independent author freedom in action. As originally published, in the Harlequin Undone! series of short ebooks, His Silken Seduction was well under 50 pages. That was the length the line required, so that was the length I wrote. Simples!

When I reread it, for the first time in more than five years, I could see that the characters were just begging for more room to tell their story. Some readers had already told me so, in fact, but I hadn’t been able to change anything, first time round.

As I struck off their shackles, the characters gave three excited cheers at the prospect of freedom and simply took charge of the story.

going indie let a thousand birds fly free

They wanted to show me what was missing before — how they were falling in love in the midst of violence, and turmoil, and the threat of war; and how they had to live each day knowing it could be their last. They still wanted me to share their passion, but also their fears, and especially the terrible choices they were being forced to make, between love and duty.

Above all, they wanted time so that their full story could be told.

How could I refuse? And so, like Topsy, the story growed. And it was a joy, for me as the author, to grow with it.

freedom figure

 

This new, much expanded version of His Silken Seduction now weighs in at well over twice the length of the original. I still call it a novella, but my Libertà partner, Sophie Weston, has reminded me that some authors have published stories of this length and labelled them novels.
Barbara Cartland, for one!

 

Cover of His Silken Seduction by Joanna MaitlandFreedom has other advantages, too. By publishing the new version of His Silken Seduction myself, I have the final say on the cover design. As a professional, I couldn’t say so in public, but I really hated the original cover. To me, it didn’t look Regency, or sexy, or even very female.

The new cover, designed by Jane Dixon Smith, has everything I wanted. It even shows the streets of old Lyons where most of the story is set. And it’s certainly sexy. I hope you like it as much as I do.


The new, expanded version of His Silken Seduction was published as an Amazon ebook on 7th December, 2015. It is available from your local Amazon store.


Reposting this here in April 2016, I’d add:

Going indie is hard work.

You have to do everything for yourself, including marketing your books (via social media, website material, book signings and the like) and you have to do all the book formatting stuff as well. That’s an awful lot of non-writing tasks, even when you use professional helpers, as I do, for editing and cover design.

indie businesswoman goes shackle freeSomewhere in the middle of all that, you still have to find the time to write!

But in spite of everything, I’m very glad I made the jump to indie. And I still say that Freedom is the answer.

If you’ll excuse a groanworthy pun, I’d even add that it’s all about Libertà!

Joanna the shacklefree