Most authors have experienced rejection. Many of us have faced it so many times we begin to take it for granted. British author, R. N. Morris came face to face with the worst sort of personal rejection -- truly an author's nightmare. He calls it his, "darkest moment," and now he's on the other side of that moment, with four published novels and another in the works.
I remember meeting my agent for coffee. He ‘d been my agent for a number of years but without managing to place any of my novels. I have actually lost count of the number of novels he’d tried – maybe three or four. Maybe more. It’s a blur. It wasn’t his fault. He’d been able to get the scripts on the desks of the right people but there had been no takers. Apparently I’d come very close a couple of times, but something had always got in the way. One editor’s reaction was typical, if brutal: “I won’t be able to sell enough copies.” That was for the novel my agent had just been submitting and our meeting was to let me know how things were going. Badly, was the short answer. “Your name is starting to meet with some resistance,” he told me. I asked what he meant. “Well, when I tell editors I have a new novel by you, they say, ‘Ah, yes, we know him – don’t you have anyone else?’”
That was pretty much the lowest point of my writing life. As far as I could see, this was the end of the road. Either I change my name, or give up. That was the way it seemed. I didn’t like the idea of changing my name – it seemed a deceitful thing to do. I also didn’t like the idea of giving up. I decided to try one last throw of the dice. I’d had this idea for a detective novel based on Porfiry Petrovich, the magistrate from Dostoevksy’s novel “Crime and Punishment.” I shared the idea with my agent. “Yes, that might work,” was all he said. But it was all the encouragement I needed.
Actually, I had two last rolls of the dice. There was another idea that I had to get out of my system first, an idea that had also been obsessing me for years. A story about a guy who went round collecting mementos from scenes of tragedy or disaster. I decided I had to write that first and then get on to the Porfiry Petrovich idea, which I felt would be harder and would require more time to research. I wrote “Taking Comfort”, my first published novel, in a frenzied eight weeks. Then I started work on the novel that would become “A Gentle Axe”, my second published novel, immediately.
So I didn’t give up. I don’t know what I did – or how I did it. I wrote the two books that I most needed to write – the two books, also, that I was most afraid of writing. Maybe I learnt, not to give up, but to let go.
R. N. Morris
R. N. Morris has written a contemporary thriller, Taking Comfort, and three literary mysteries set in Dostoevsky's Russia, the most recent of which is 2010's A Razor Wrapped in Silk, now available in the UK and in the US on Kindle and from resellers. His previous novel, A Vengeful Longing, is available in Australia, and the first St. Petersburg mystery, A Gentle Axe, is available as an audio book in South Africa.