I think that the story of the book is as interesting as the story the book tells.
I wrote the first draft between February and June 2014. I polished the manuscript four or five times before sending it to a dozen literary agents. Seven of them asked for the full manuscript, but finally rejected it, without telling me why. I polished it again two more times and decided to sell it to a small press, so my manuscript landed in a couple of slush piles.
Robert Peett, the founder and manager of Holland Books, a small press in Newbury, about twenty miles or so from Reading, replied to me, telling me that he loved my book, but that we should get together to discuss it before working out a deal. We met two weeks later and he told me over a coffee that the book was too good for his press—he couldn’t afford to pay an advance, and the distribution would be tiny.
I was shocked and wondered if he might be making fun of me. He asked me why I hadn’t sent the manuscript to any literary agents. I told him that I had, but that it’d been rejected. He told me that I should try again. He insisted and finally convinced me to do so.
That was on a Thursday. The very next day, I sent the manuscript to three more British agents, one of them being Marilia Savvides of Peters, Fraser, Dunlop, who asked for the full manuscript just two days later, and offered me representation three days after that. I was walking on air, but still a little skeptical.
I met Marilia and the rest of the foreign rights team—Rachel, Alexandra, and Rebecca—and they told me that the project was going to be a splash. I was still skeptical. But then we received very good offers from about ten countries in less than a week. Now, I was no longer skeptical. I was scared, because everything was happening too fast. But God bless you, Robert Peett! Your honesty and kindness perhaps saved my career.
The idea for the book started to germinate in 2013, over a conversation with my mom. I told her that I could remember the funeral for a local football player, who’d died very young in a car accident when I was a kid. She said that I’d been just a toddler at the time, so I couldn’t have been there. I went on, telling her that I could remember that the coffin was open, and there was a football placed on the dead guy’s chest. She said that the detail was true, but that I probably heard it from her or my dad, after they’d attended the funeral. “But you definitively weren’t there,” she added.
It was just a silly story about the human mind’s capacity to cosmeticize and even falsify its recollections, but it planted the seed of my novel. What if we really forgot what had happened at some point? What if our imagination is capable of transforming so-called objective reality into something else, into our own separate reality? What if somebody is not merely a liar, but rather his or her mind is capable of rewriting a given event, like a film director? As Emperor Marcus Aurelius once said: “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” So, this is what The Book of Mirrors is about.
Well, you might say that my book is a whodunit, a crime novel. But I would say that it’s a whydunit. I have always thought that after three hundred pages the reader should get something more than just who killed Jane or John. I have also always thought that a writer should aspire to discover the magic land of good stories that are literary at the same time. A so-called crime novel should be as stylish as a literary novel—please be so kind as to read The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler or Who Killed Palomino Molero by Mario Vargas Llosa or The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt.
Listen to an excerpt from THE BOOK OF MIRRORS audiobook!
The Book of Mirrors, an editors’ pick at Audible: