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Success with number seven

10 July 2006

Emma Darwin is about to get published, at last. Her first novel, The Mathematics of Love, will be coming out from Headline Review in the UK in the autumn. But it isn't actually the first novel she's written, but the seventh, and there are six other manuscripts which seem likely to stay in her bottom drawer. Darwin reckons she has learnt from the experience: 'Everybody serves an apprenticeship, and the form that takes varies. With some people it's going over and over again at the same novel, and for others it's starting again with a different one. I learnt my trade very thoroughly.'

Darwin has distinguished family antecedents, being the descendant of both Charles Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood. Her novel sounds intriguing, with a fashionable dual plotline involving the story of a 19th century was veteran interwoven with that of a young girl in the 1970s, and including some interesting material about photography. But Darwin has earned her success the hard way, as she herself admits: 'I'm grateful that this is the novel that's made it, because it's the best thing I've ever written... I've got the confidence that it's not a flash in the pan. This is something I'm really good at and I know how to do.'

Other newly published writers are benefiting from Macmillan UK's New Writing programme, which has been extended to include second novels from the first set of new authors. Six of the launch titles have reprinted and the imprint has broken even.

Although it was initially controversial, the no-frills and no-advance deal has worked for the authors concerned, enabling them to break through into print. Macmillan has attracted attention by its initiative, finding some new authors to publish in the future. And the authors have had their chance at publication, giving them the break which every writer needs. It looks like a harder route to success than Emma Darwin's, but her six unpublished novels show just how long the road to publication can be, and how much persistence can pay off in the end.