Yesterday I was driving home from visiting family and listening to the news on the radio. They announced who had been given a New Year Honour (for overseas readers, here’s what they are), and I had a little daydream about how marvellous it would be to be recognised (à la Lady Antonia Fraser) for services to literature. Once home, having been offline for a couple of days, I checked my email and good heavens! I found that I had been given something even better! “Portraits of Pretence” – the fourth Sam Plank novel – has been chosen by influential book review website Discovering Diamonds as their Book of the Year for 2017.
Discovering Diamonds is a wonderful place. I stumbled on it – or rather, the people behind it, before it was created – right back at the start, just as I published the first Sam Plank novel, “Fatal Forgery” and was looking for reviewers. Everyone associated with the website – and in particular our marvellous leader Helen Hollick – has been incredibly generous with their time, expertise, guidance and encouragement. If you’re a fan of historical fiction – of any era and in any formats, whether e-book or paperback, Victorian or Roman, self-published or traditionally produced – their reviews are unmissable.
Regular readers of this blog will remember how excited I was when “Portraits” was chosen as their Book of the Month in March. And now to find that I have scooped the annual award – well! Naturally Sam would dispute my role, as Helen quite rightly points out that he is the hero of it all: “The three main characters have, through the absorbing series, become good, fictional, friends. I find them believable, plausible and very likeable.”
I know the fashion is to say that awards don’t matter, that the work itself is the reward. And of course I do love writing the Sam Plank stories. But they are not edging Grisham or Rowling off the bestseller lists, there is no-one from the BBC knocking at the door and begging to be allowed to make them into a Sunday night corset drama, and my marketing efforts cost much more in time than they generate in income. And so an award like this does matter – it matters enormously. Hopefully it will generate some publicity for Sam, but more importantly it confirms to me that I can write, that the books are worth reading, and that I am right to continue. Thank you, Helen: to me, this award is priceless.