Monday, August 12, 2013

This ends the New Zealand portion of our programme

I'm off to the States tomorrow. WLG - AKL - LAX. We're having a 2-night layover in Los Angeles (wise, methinks, given the 7.5 month-old in our party) before getting to Iowa City (via Dallas and Cedar Rapids).

The travel trauma should rule a nice thick line under the first few weeks of The Mannequin Makers' life in the big bad world. I'm looking forward to fully immersing myself in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and writing some butt-kicking stories.

But for now it's probably worthwhile just noting down how The Mannequin Makers has fared thus far.


Well, it was #4 on the bestseller list in its first week. Okay, so the New Zealand Fiction list is quite a specific category, but A Man Melting never made it to the top 10... The Mannequin Makers also made #5 on the list of all books sold at independent books stores in New Zealand for the week.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed how a certain book is #1 and #2 of both lists (paperback and hardback). Feel free to bump me up a spot if you think that's cheating (I don't - in the great wash-up it's pretty cool to be fighting for airtime with a favourite for the Booker Prize).

One last musing on sales... It'll be interesting to see how things go in the coming weeks. Whitcoulls is selling The Mannequin Makers for $30, $8 off the R.R.P. They'd even moved it up from the "What's New" table near the back of the Lambton Quay store to the "What's Hot" table near the entrance. Which is all good (especially since Whitcoulls never bothered to stock my last book except for in airports), but Whitcoulls is no longer signed up to Nielsen Bookscan, which is used to compile the bestseller lists.

I'm just gonna forget about all that sales stuff until my next royalties statement comes through in March-ish next year.


I've seen seven reviews so far, and apparently there's one in the new North & South which came out today, but they didn't have it at Countdown yet.

(All I know is what RHNZ tweeted: 'In THE MANNEQUIN MAKERS, @Craig_Cliff “has crafted a brilliantly structured and evocative story.”' Sounds promising, but you can never trust those publishing types and their money quotes.)

The other reviews have been:

The Listener, 1 August 2013
Highly favourable. Money quote: "it’s tremendous, darkly entertaining and original from start to finish."

The Press, 3 August 2013 (not online)
Highly unfavourable. Money quote is an indignant text from my father-in-law in Christchurch: "Who the hell is Phillip Matthews?"
Mostly favourable (didn't like the fourth part as much as the others). Money quote: [the bit where she gives away why the Carpenter is mute, and about six other meaty plot points].
Highly favourable. My first Australian review (for any book), that I'm aware of. Money quote: "This is a superb novel of parental obsession, the lure of the unattainable and the tragedy inherent within human nature." ALso, the bit where she compares TMM to Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda and Tim Winton's Cloud Street. Nice company, I reckon.

Highly favourable. Money quote: "Much like his craftsmen, Kemp and the Carpenter, Cliff has crafted a lovely bit o' story – well built and polished."

Highly mixed (if that's a thing). Money quote: This twitter exchange, where bookseller Martin Shaw managed to draw both the reviewer and me into a conversation about the review... Ha!

Also of note: the fact I was compared to Peter Carey again (though this time it was meant to be disparaging). If that's the mud people wanna sling, I've no fear sticking my head above the parapet!

Aside: until this week, I'd only been compared to Peter Carey once before. It was in Sydney and I blogged about it:
When I said it was an honour to meet him [Tom Keneally], he said, “I am reminded of another young short story writer who approached me with reverence many years ago... who turned out to be Peter Carey. If I can offer one piece of advice: One booker is an honour; two is just an indulgence.”
Otago Daily Times, 10 August 2013
Mostly favourable (found Part Three a bit long: "just another shipwreck story", but liked the other parts). Money quote: "With The Mannequin Makers [readers are] being treated to a tale that has characters and a plotline even Dickens would have been proud of."

Also, right at the end: "Let's hope it sells a few copies and stirs the interest of TV drama and film-makers." To this I would add, "Just a few?" and "TV drama and film-makers, my people are waiting by the phone."

If you've seen any other reviews, lemme know and I'll hunt them down (though that might be hard in the States).

Other publicity

I wrote about my uneasy relationship with historical fiction for the New Zealand Book Council.

I did this interview with Lynn Freeman, which ran on the Arts on Sunday (4 August) on Radio National.

I did an event at the Palmerston North City Library (a place that used to be a department store, and I've previously described as my spiritual home as a writer) on Sunday 11 August.

There's an interview with Joan Fleming/The Lumiere Reader that should be online in the next day or so.

There'll also be a write-up about me in the Herald on Saturday 24 August (I think). And something in APN's regional newspapers one day soon (if I haven't already missed it).

And now...

To read through the 30 or so stories for the BNZ Literary Awards (Novice Category) that have made my longlist. There were 607 entries in total, and I'm hoping to trim down to 12 or 15 that I'll take with me to the states and mull over for a few days before I make my final decision.

And then pack... 16 hours to my first flight leaves. Better hop to it.

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