The last time I saw Jane Davis was at the London Book Fair 2019 at 9am in the morning when she was standing on a stage talking about her eighth novel, a finalist in The Selfies. Later the same day, Smash all the Windows won the inaugural award. The Selfies is unusual in that while only novels by indie authors are eligible, the announcement took places at the UK’s major traditional publishing event. So Jane is a trailblazer. I asked her to share with us her journey with Smash all the Windows and her experience of writing competitions.
“London Book Fair 2018 provided an excellent venue for the launch of Smash all the Windows. It was a high-concept (and potentially high-risk) novel, in which I created a fictional disaster to explore my outrage at the reaction of the press to the verdict of the Hillsborough second inquest.
“It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.
It will take courage to learn how to live again.
For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.
Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.
If only it were that simple.”
“At London Book Fair 2019, (I’m thrilled to say) it was declared the winner of The Selfies, a new award run by BookBrunch in association with London Book Fair and sponsored by Ingram Spark. Because The Selfies celebrates self-published fiction (meaning that the buck stops entirely with the author), the judges considered not only the writing, but the quality of the edit, cover design, typesetting and production values.
“After the shortlist was announced, I extended an invitation to my fellow shortlistees to guest on my blog, and so I’d had the pleasure of getting to know them before the big day. It was obvious that each writer was passionate about their craft and that, for them, self-publishing had been a positive choice – one which positions them in the driver’s seat, enabling them to make their own artistic and promotion decisions, valuing quality above commercialism, exploring niche genres, and enjoying fair contract terms.
“The Selfies was not my first award win, but it was the first time I had attended an award ceremony where the announcement was made live, in front of an audience.
“Winning an award produces a whole raft of emotions. As Olivia Colman proved so charmingly at this year’s Oscars, it’s impossible to predict how you’re going to react. “It’s genuinely quite stressful,” Olivia Colman began as she took to the stage. The stress of winning wasn’t something I hadn’t had to think about before.
“I learned that I’d won the Daily Mail First Novel Award when I was at home on my own, having left a well-paid job at the beginning of a recession, for reasons that now escape me. The experience was surreal. Immediately after telling me I’d won, the judge’s spokesperson told me she felt awful. Her next five calls would be to the writers whose books were shortlisted, and she felt really terrible about telling them they hadn’t won. I’m used to guilt, but the guilt of winning was profound.
“I then tried to contact someone (anyone!) who might be marginally happier that I had won an award, perhaps enough to embark on a small-scale celebration, but my partner was in a meeting and no-one knew when he was going to be out. When I asked to leave a message that Jane had called, they asked ‘Jane who?’ (admittedly, I don’t call very often) which added to the feeling that I was very unimportant and was just making a nuisance of myself. My two best friends had urgent appointments. I was so relieved when my mother picked up that I used the words ‘I haven’t been able to get hold of anyone.’ In retrospect I can see that this may have made her feel quite low down the list of choices.
“I learned that I had won ‘Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year Award when I was working the day job by an email that I really shouldn’t have been reading at the same time as getting paid. So I had all of this euphoria running through my veins, but I couldn’t tell anyone AND I had to carry on with the audit I was in the middle of!
“The Selfies was different. I’d had time to think about what I should wear (I am never quite sure what an author is supposed to look like but assume that scarves and big jewellery is appropriate) and what I might say if I should happen to… but not going too far for fear that I might jinx the verdict. Together with three other ‘shortlistees’ for the award, I took part in a panel discussion about the joys and perils of self-publishing. When asked why I self-publish, I quoted from Diana’s Athill’s memoir, Stet, in which she recalls her fifty years in the business.
“The person with whom the writer wants to be in touch is his reader: if he could speak to him directly, without a middleman, that is what he would do. The publisher exists only because turning someone’s written words into a book is a complicated and expensive undertaking.”
“I have been enjoying a direct conversation with my readers since 2012. Whilst I would never rule out the possibility of a publishing deal, I love the challenge of being my own creative director, choosing to work with people who share my vision and who will push me so that the final product is the very best it can be.
“The judges acknowledged that the shortlist had been very strong. The first announcement of the afternoon was that, faced with a tough decision, they had decided to present an additional award to Jane Steen (like me, a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors) for her novel, Lady Helena Investigates. Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors was among the first to offer her congratulations adding, “It’s an acknowledgement that indie authors are producing work of unquestionable merit and must master the double challenge of writing a great book and also publishing it.”
Read my review of Smash All the Windows.
Jane’s reasons to enter writing competitions
The promise of having your work read by industry professionals.
External validation – a shortlisting can prove to be as fruitful as a win. More than one shortlisting for the same novel shows that your work is ‘up there’.
For indie authors, an award acts as a quality kitemark.
Raising your profile – as a result of my win, Bloomsbury invited me to write the foreword for their new Artists’ and Writers’ Yearbook for Self-Publishers and I have been asked to speak at several literary festivals (all paid work).
And let’s not ignore the award money. Prizes have funded all of my self-publishing endeavours.
Do check the entry rules to ensure that, if you win, you retain the copyright to your own work.
Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.
Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of eight novels. Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing. Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies,won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was ‘Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
SMASH ALL THE WINDOWS #author @janedavisauthor on writing competitions https://wp.me/p5gEM4-420 via @SandraDanby