I went into work this morning thinking about Fife’s manuscript. His editor told me about it for a reason, but what reason? Does she want my permission to print it? Was she just being nice and giving me a heads up? Was she trying to see how litigious I am? And stupid fuck Fife, why didn’t he tell me he was writing about us?
Okay, in fairness to him, he did keep asking me to read it, and I said ‘no’. But I would have been much more likely to have said ‘yes’ if he’d told me it was about us. Or should I say, he was writing a slightly fictionalized version of our relationship and a very eschewed version of me.
The best person to ask about this would most certainly be Loraine. I didn’t want to tell her about the personal stuff with Fife and I, but it’s likely to come out anyway. Plus, I really need advice about how I should officially react to Fife’s book.
When I got into the office, I asked Loraine if she had time for a chat. She must have been able to sense that it was serious due to the tone of my voice, because she suggested that we sit at the kitchen table in the house not at the table in the office. Over a cup of tea I told her the situation. I told her that Fife and I were splitting up, and it’s not a good break-up. I hesitated telling her about my ‘situation’, and in the end decided to not bring it up. Not yet. I need to find out if I really am, or if I’m just a little late. (I swear it does feel like I’m about to start my period. I so wish LadyBohemia were still alive. I could talk to her about it.) Anyway, I told her about Fife living with me, and that I’ve kicked him out, but that it’s taken my friends to actually get him out of the house.
She was quiet and listened. She didn’t judge or say anything, although there was a puzzled look on her face. And I’m sure she was wondering why I was telling her about this, because theoretically it had nothing to do with work. So, I picked up the pace and told her about his current manuscript.
Her first question was, ‘Are they publishing it as a memoir?’
I told her that I don’t think they were, but it was definitely a slightly distorted version of our relationship, and the protagonist was me, well me sort of.
Loraine then asked why this bothered me, and I said, ‘Because I don’t want everyone thinking that this is how things actually happened. Because he’s not the great guy he makes himself out to be in the book.’
‘Would you be happier if it was a truer representation, like a memoir?’ she asked.
‘Definitely not,’ I said.
‘Then you just don’t want to see yourself in one of his books?’ she said more as a statement than a question.
I told her that was correct. She paused before pretty much putting me in my place. Loraine didn’t give me a numbered list of why I’m being an arse about it (she was much more eloquent), but I’ve put them in a numbered list because it’s easier:
- If it’s being billed as fiction why am I worried about it?
- If everyone knows the story is based on me and Fife, and then I make a big stink about it, I’m going to look like the bigger twat than him.
- If I ask the publishers to either enforce bigger changes to the manuscript so that it’s obviously not me, or ask them not to publish it, that can cause more problems.
- I’d be putting the publishers on the spot, meaning that any future dealings I have with them may be tense.
- As I’d be putting them on the spot, they may not want to work with me as an agent in the future. (This would be petty, but possible.)
- They may publish it anyway, and then I’d have to decide if I want to sue, which would then revert back to 3i and 3ii.
- If I do decide to sue, that’s timely, expensive, would make me look like a prat, and would be pointless as it would just give the book more publicity, more people would buy it, and it would totally defeat the purpose.
Loraine’s advice. Talk to Fife and ask him if he’d be willing to rewrite it a little more so that its more fictional. I told Loraine that I wasn’t comfortable talking to Fife at all, so she said, ‘You’ll just have to get over it then.’
She then added, ‘She [the editor] was just giving you a first glance as a common courtesy. Remember, they just bought on of our client’s books at auction, and they don’t want a tense relationship with us.’
In the back of my mind I had remembered that Conspiracy’s book was sold to Fife’s publishers, but I kind of ignored that fact. Loraine was right, if I made a big stink about this it would cause problems with not only that deal, but any future dealings we’d want to have with them. I don’t like it, but at least he’s not publishing it as a memoir.
I rang the editor to let her know that I had read the manuscript. She asked what I thought about it, so I said, ‘Yeah, it’s probably the best thing he’s written. It’s really quite good.’
She was hesitant before she spoke next but eventually said, ‘So, you’re okay with it? The [protagonist character] doesn’t seem too…familiar?’
‘No, why should it?’ I asked. ‘It’s fiction, right?’
‘Yes, of course. It’s fiction,’ she said, as I could almost hear the sign of relief over the phone. She then added, ‘Although, there are quite a lot of edits that need to be done. In fact, I think I’m going to ask him to change the main character a bit. Personally, I think she’s too young for the voice he gave her. Plus no one that age would be doing that well in her career. I’m also going to suggest that he change a few other biographical bits of that character. I’ll do the same with the wife character.’
‘I think those are brilliant ideas,’ I said. Then I thought that Fife’s poor agent has a lot of work ahead of her. She does all his edits anyway, and practically rewrites anything that the publisher requests. This book is about to be the editor and the agents book, and I’ll be interested in reading it once it’s published. I wonder if I would even recognise it from the original. In a way, it’s kind of sad Fife won’t have much to do with the rewrites, because his voice and style in this one is so lovely. Although, it’s his own lazy fault he doesn’t have much to do with the rewrites, and I think the editor’s decision to take it farther away from representations of Fife’s life is a smart idea, because I don’t know if Helen would be as accommodating as me. In fact, I wonder if Helen’s even read it.
The editor then switched the topic to Conspiracy’s book, and the changes the publisher would like to see made. They aren’t too terribly extensive, but enough to keep Conspiracy busy for a while.
Right, I’m at lunch just now, but I’ve got loads of work to do. And I still haven’t heard back from PoshMum or any of the US publishers. I’m starting to get a bit nervous. The deal we’ve made for Conspiracy’s book/blog in the UK is a good one, but it won’t save the day. We’re only 10% of a royalty after all.