Some of you will recall that Anne McDermid, my Canadian agent, didn’t really want me telling the story of how I met Ian Rankin in the UK during the Debut Dagger festivities because I always linked it to all those rejections I’d experienced first. She was concerned that it might turn off agents that she was trying to sell the book to.
“That,” she said, “is the kind of story you can only tell when you’re successful. You’re not a success yet.”
I could see her point, but I totally disagreed with it. What if I never became a success? It was something very cool that had happened to me; it was part of my life. I didn’t want to be telling it as a failure later on, if the book didn’t sell anyway. And I’ve learned to celebrate good things when you can. Some people think the pessimist is never disappointed; I think s/he always is.
Besides, I really do think that it’s “one of those little engine that could” stories that speaks to a lot of people about how not giving up, about how persistence, can sometimes turn into luck. And couldn’t we all use a little inspiration these days?
My UK agent, Peter Robinson, thought I should simply hold off on telling the Ian Rankin story until we got closer to launch. He thought it was an engaging anecdote that might interest the media once the book was closer to coming out, and felt I shouldn’t waste it.
And so holding off for a while became my compromise. But once I knew the book was on its way to bookstore, whenever I was interviewed about the book, I told the interviewer about Ian Rankin’s incredible generosity to an aspiring writer that he’d encountered only briefly in a bar.
After all, I’d mentioned it in the Acknowledgements to the book, so it was hardly a secret.
And guess what? Yesterday, my Ian Rankin story appeared in an entertainment column in the Sydney Morning Herald. Which really does go to show how good news travels, in this case all the way around the world.
I posted it on Twitter last night and it has already been retweeted by several Scottish authors, including Ian Rankin himself.
Here’s what the Australian newspaper wrote:
“Drinks are on you, Peggy
“RANKIN likes to help writers as well.
“Take the case of Canadian writer Peggy Blair. She had been trying to get published for ages and entered her first novel, The Beggar’s Opera, into several awards, including the debut Dagger Award of Britain’s Crime Writers Association. She was amazed it got a shortlisting and went to Harrogate for the crime fest where the winners were announced.
“She didn’t win and went for a drink afterwards and bumped into Rankin. She told him about her travails and that she was from Ottawa, where he had been only a week earlier for the blues fest. He suggested she use his name and contact his Canadian publisher, who turned out to be happy to read the book and suggested Blair get in touch with Rankin’s agent, Peter (sic) Robertson.
“Outcome? A two-book deal with Penguin Canada and an agent. She owes Rankin a big drink.”