My Dad sometimes plays dominoes with Trevor Hoyle.
As claims to fame goes, it’s a modest one, I admit. My mum and dad bought their first ever house from Mr Hoyle, celebrated dramatist and sci-fi author most famous for a killer episode of Blake’s 7 and a 1983 novel The Last Gasp. My dad still remembers seeing Hoyle’s office as he got a tour of the house he was soon to buy; a small upstairs room with every wall plastered with rejection letters.
I too have had my fair share of rejection letters – enough to wallpaper a small room of one’s own. Here’s one of my favourites from back in 2010 or so. I’d finished a book called Pollentracer. It was the first Dalton Fly novel, the one I abandoned immediately before beginning work on The Poison Boy. I’d set it in the city of Highlions, a border-town in a fantasy world in which spices and herbs had magical properties that made them dangerous and illegal. Dalton Fly was a spice detective – a pollentracer – with a nose for sniffing out stolen contraband and smuggled spice.
Because the world was complex, I hit upon the idea of giving Dalton an ignorant sidekick. I called this witless kid Dogpool Spares after a car mechanic’s place I’d seen in Birmingham. Dalton could teach him, I figured. It was my Holmes and Watson thing. I thought at the time Pollentracer bore all the hallmarks of a straight-fire winner.
AS the picture above clearly indicates, nobody else agreed. So why do I love this letter so much?
Well, it was evident these guys had actually read my book. That was a new one for me at the time. My rejection letters usually began “Dear Author” and got blander from there.
And look! There’s actual feedback. Clear, helpful feedback. It’s “laboured” – I plead guilty on that one – it’s “awkward” “complicated” – guilty again – Dalton “sounds too much like a teacher” – thrice guilty, m’lud. I had to ditch the idea. I knew as soon as the letter arrived. I binned the whole thing off and had a re-think. The Poison Boy was the result.
Every author has their fair share of defeats. So keep your rejection letters. It’s all good wallpaper, folks.