Book deals are a bit like buses, as the jokey British saying goes: you wait ages and then two come along at once.
That’s certainly what it feels like for me at the moment. A little more than two weeks before the launch of the updated edition of Reading the World: How I Read a Book from Every Country, I have happy news of another publication to share. This one in particular has taken a lot of waiting – five years to be precise.
I wrote my second novel, Crossing Over, in 2017, shortly after I’d moved to live on the Kent coast. Back then the reports of small boats crossing the English Channel were few and far between. The migrant crisis, as it was becoming known in the English-speaking world, was still mostly in the Mediterranean. So this novel, which centres around an encounter between a recently arrived migrant and an 87-year-old woman with dementia, was largely speculative.
It was my most ambitious project to date, and one that brought together a lot of the thinking about the role of storytelling in building our sense of one another’s humanity, different Englishes, and the limits and possibilities of mutual understanding that is at the centre of my reading-the-world work. It contained what I believed was my best writing so far; working on it had felt like spreading my wings.
But – despite a lot of great responses from early readers and interest from several major publishers – it failed to find a home with a big press. Audible was keen, so it came out as an audiobook in 2019.
For a long while, I resigned myself to Crossing Over not existing in print. But as time went by, this felt less and less satisfactory.
In the intervening years, as more and more boats began to arrive in this area, I had the chance to work with a number of people who had made the crossing, thanks to the support of the Royal Literary Fund and collaborations with local charities, including KRAN and Samphire. I also attended a vigil on the beach down the road in solidarity with the 27 people who drowned trying to make the trip last November. These experiences and the hardening of UK government policy towards those risking their lives for the hope of security in my home country made me feel increasingly strongly the importance of using stories to build bridges.
And so I decided to try again, this time approaching the kind of small, independent publishers who so often champion the extraordinary, boundary-pushing books I feature on this blog. A few months ago, I agreed a deal with the wonderful Renard Press.
Their publisher, Will Dady, told The Bookseller this: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to have acquired the UK and commonwealth rights to Ann Morgan’s beautiful new novel, Crossing Over. A stirring tale that considers the plight of those forced by circumstance to leave their homeland and cross the Channel in search of a better life, as well as the realities of living with dementia, the book is a real celebration of humanity, and leaves you reeling, thinking about what others are facing in their lives and the power of connection, even when language fails.’
Crossing Over comes out in April 2023. No doubt I’ll be pestering you about buying it nearer the time (in fact, those in the UK and Commonwealth countries can already pre-order it here). But for now I’d just like to say hooray and thank you to the many people who believed in this project, and to the hundreds of readers, writers and translators around the planet who keep my faith in the power of storytelling strong. Yes!