Oh, kids, I move slowly sometimes. I do. Two weeks before the 2005 World Fantasy Convention – a wonderful, wonderful event held in Madison, Wisconsin, that I look back on with great fondness – I sat down and worked up some ideas for anthology pitches. I came up with eleven separate ideas, mostly based around simple themes with what I hoped were snappy titles. Four were ideas for young adult books, one for a major reprint anthology, and six were for novella anthologies.
I think because I was prepared and went to Madison intending to sell a book, I had no success at all. There’s nothing quite so effective as seeming a little desperate to make sure that you don’t succeed, and sometimes preparation makes you desperate. As it happened, one of those ideas – listed simply as ‘Big Dumb Objects/Alien artifacts’ for Andy – did sell a bit later. It went on to become my completed but still-unpublished book, Godlike Machines. I also note, with no small irony given the eventual success of some other books, that I pitched an anthology of zombie stories to no avail. I guess I was too early.
Anyway, every now and then I’d pull up the list of ideas and see what I could work on. I nearly did an anthology of YA ghost stories, and one or two others got discussed, but the one I kept coming back to was Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron. It was to be an anthology of fantasy stories featuring witches, and it was aimed at young adult readers. Somewhere along the way I’m pretty sure I discussed co-editing the book with Justine Larbalestier, but that didn’t work out (through no fault of hers, I should stress). I definitely remember discussing it at several conventions, and then again with my agent Howard Morhaim a few times. I know we discussed it in Denver, Calgary, Montreal and, most recently, in San Jose.
Probably after Denver the idea really began to seem important. I realised it was a book I wanted to do for my daughters, Jessica and Sophie. They’re nine and eight respectively, and are getting to the age where they might appreciate such a book, and I’d love to work on a book they could enjoy. Around April I wrote to some that writers I know and asked them to be involved. The idea pushed forward, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to sit down to write a proposal. I don’t like writing proposals, though I do know how to when I have to.
When I got home from the San Jose World Fantasy – this was the first week of November 2009 – and, while I was laid low with the flu, I applied myself and, in about an hour, knocked out a proposal. I went over it the following morning to make sure it was written in English and on November 12th – 1,484 days after I’d first noted the idea down – I emailed the proposal to my agent Howard Morhaim with a note saying I wanted it to go out to publishers urgently (I think the ‘urgently’ was because I felt guilty for having sat on the idea for so long).
Howard then proceeded to work his magic, sending the proposal on to a bunch of wonderful people (several who I genuinely hope to work with in coming years), and after some discussion and back-and-forth we reached agreement on December 17th with Jim Thomas from Random House to publish Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron in North America. While we will continue to work on selling the book to the rest of the World, right now I’m just thrilled and delighted that this book is happening and incredibly excited to be working with Jim and the team at Random (I’ve heard wonderful things about them). This is the biggest single deal I’ve ever been part of, and I think the final book (coming to you sometime in 2012) will be the best book I’ve ever done.
Why did it take so long? I don’t know. The idea will be seven years old when the book is published, almost as old as The New Space Opera was when it came out. I think the wait will be worth it though, and I’d like to very publicly thank my fabulous agent Howard Morhaim (and the indefatigable Katie) for all of their work on the deal. Exciting times!!!