Baffled. Amazed. Shook.
Words can't express my feelings (though perhaps "imposter syndrome" describes it well). I hadn't posted anything about this news yet, seeing as I could never find the right words. And I'm still struggling to do so. But now it's time to finally post my (mediocre) attempt at telling everyone that I got a book deal.
In the Spring of 2020, I had made a big decision: I was going to write the story of my great-grandmother. This was an incredibly daunting task, seeing as my only knowledge about writing books came from WattPad and YouTube videos.
At the simple-minded age of 8, the idea of writing a full novel seemed easy. "You just sit down and write", tiny Mags always thought. So began my journey of writing The Pearl, a book about a teenage boy who loses his mum (to some unnamed disease) and goes on a quest to finding the love of his life. Spoiler alert: after decades of bad dates, break-ups and disappointing attempts at finding true love, he eventually realises that... he's been in love with his best-friend, Tristan, this whole time.
As much as I adore my 8 year old self for writing this little Dutch 200 page gem, it isn't exactly publishing (let alone reading) material.
At the age of 14, I made another attempt, but this time the book had a sci-fi/dystopian/pandemic style narrative. Again, not my best work. But I digress.
So in 2020, I wanted to write about something much more personal and terrifyingly true. A story that I wanted to write, not for the sake of completing a novel, but rather to bring a person (and their journey) to life. A story that my grandmother had told me on a quiet evening in Amsterdam. A story that I thought I knew so well, about a person that I didn't know enough about.
So, in the Spring of 2020 I gathered all the research I needed (letters, documents, photographs) and emailed those who could perhaps give me some of the missing pieces to finish my puzzle. And then I wrote. Well, the writing part didn't come easy... at first.
It took me about three months to type my first sentence. Then it took me another month to type the second and third. Then silence... The very few people who knew I was writing this book occasionally asked how it was going. "Great", I'd say, "I'm just working on the structure and then I'll start." What I wasn't telling them was that I had been changing and re-changing and triple-changing the structure just so I could procrastinate the writing part.
And then one day I woke up on a rainy October morning and opened my laptop. That document on my desktop, the one with the three mediocre sentences was staring me in the eyes. I deleted the document. No, I wasn't going to start my book with that crap. Hanna wouldn't be proud. Instead, I decided to open a new document, and I began with the sentence: "Hanna, you are completely and utterly insane...", and from then on the writing just... happened. No forcing it, no shame, no self-doubt.
In a way the lockdowns gave me a lot of time to continue developing the story . Writing was a great coping mechanism during those winter days. It gave me strength to know that when I didn't have anything else going on, I could just open my laptop and immerse myself into Hanna's life.
This blog is now longer than I intended it to be. But before finishing I would just like to share the novel's premise: Amsterdam, 1941. Hanna makes a heart-wrenching decision of abandoning her baby daughter on the corner of a sidewalk. All she can hope for is that they will both survive and reunite when the war is over. That little girl who she left on that street corner is my grandmother.
Hanna will be released on 23 August 2022. More info coming soon...