Emergency surgery with a biro

I’ve just finished checking through the proofs of the next Ruso novel, TABULA RASA, which will be out in the summer. (It’s set during the building of Hadrian’s Wall, in case anyone’s wondering.) Either Bloomsbury’s typesetters are impressively accurate or I’m a rubbish proofreader, because there seemed to be hardly any typos to correct. So, things were all going along very nicely – until the point where a character was mentioned as a ‘son’ and two pages later, miraculously transformed into a daughter.

This is a manuscript that has already been past agents, an editor, a copy editor and a production manager. You might be wondering why none of them had spotted the blunder until now – but I suspect it’s a case of author interference.

Every professional edit means the author has to re-read and approve any amendments. Being a chronic ditherer, when I re-read I stumble across things I wrote that I no longer like, and I can’t resist the urge to tinker. The further down the line these changes are made, the fewer chances the professionals have to rescue me from my own stupidity.

I can remember noticing at a fairly late stage that there was a disproportionate number of boys in the book. So with a few strokes of the keyboard (ah, the power of the written word!) I created a girl – but only, it seems, in one place.  The typesetters, whose job is not to reason why, accurately reproduced what they were given. Fortunately there was time to take a biro to the manuscript and complete the sex change before it went to print. So Husband’s suggestion of, “Call them Hermaphrodite,” wasn’t necessary. But I did think it was rather a good joke.

LATER – since hitting ‘Publish’ on this post I’ve found and corrected three typos already… this is why publishers pay people who really do know how to proofread!

16 thoughts on “Emergency surgery with a biro

  1. Please tell Andy I agree it was a good joke – if joke it was! I’ll pass it on to the other Andrew later. The real question is whether things would be improved if there were more ‘girls’!

    Tony Kesten


  2. I’ll tell him, Tony! As for whether things would be improved if there were more girls… somehow I feel an urgent need to go and weed the garden/check my Twitter account/deflea the cat rather than get into that debate right now…

  3. Oh, Ruth, it’s so easy to make that sort of slip – at least you spotted it in time! My worst (I think) was about a corpse found in a form as part of a series of killings. At first he’d been stabbed, then I decided he’d been beheaded instead, because the killers collected heads as trophies. When later two other characters were trying to identify him, one asked, “Did he have a red beard?” I got as far as writing the answer “No,” before I realised what a silly question it was!

  4. Dear Ruth, It’s good to keep a sense of humor. Gotta feeling that’s one of the reasons you married the guy, yeah? Awaiting arrival of your next edition of the trials and tribulations of poor ole Gaius Petreius Ruso and Tilla, his headstrong midwife of a wife(Hah!) Always have been most interested in Roman occupation of Britannia.Pity they were handed they’re hats (so what’s your hurry legate?) Ruso’s adventures are true reading entertainment and I enjoy them immensely. Keep ’em coming. Pity Ms. Davis has changed writing styles for her newest novels. Having read the 20 Falco novels, I find her newest works of Albia (Falco’s adopted daughter,) have a completely different style of writing. Almost like a ghost writer did the work. Pity. But you know, after twenty odd novels she’s made her fortune and more power to her!

    1. Thanks Patrick! Glad you enjoy the books. Of course Ruso and Tilla’s trials and tribulations are very closely modelled on domestic life here at Downie Towers…

      1. Oh Lordy! Say it ain’t so! Downie Tower’s? Have you invited Basil for a visit? (All in good fun Hah-hah…

  5. So excited to hear about the new book. I’ve listened to the whole series as audiobooks and love them. Fingers crossed that Simon Vance is again the narrator!

    1. Brenda, I haven’t heard anything about the audio yet – except that the publishers have been sent the MS to look at – but as soon as I do it’ll be here. Really hoping we can get Simon again!

  6. HAVE ALL YOUR BOOKS ON MY NOOK. Didn’t know they were on audio CD’s.Sheesh! Dyin’ to see where the Tabula Rasa takes us…

  7. Hi. I am also excited to hear that Ruso and Tilla will return soon. I have listened to all the books and hope Simon Vance returns with them. Semper Fidelis was extra interesting to me because in 1973 (oh so many years ago) I spent the summer working on an urban archaeological excavation in York.I was fascinated by the Roman connection to the city and your book helped me visualize what it might have been like during the Roman period.

    1. Digging in York must have been great, Marie – so many layers of history there, and more seems to come to light all the time. Have you been back recently? I’m sure you’d love the revamped museum.

      1. I haven’t been back. But I am retiring this spring and York is on my list of places to revisit. I have fond memories of the 10 weeks I spent there, even if much of it was spent digging at a not too exciting site of an old pork pie factory. It was my first time abroad. I missed the viking finds by several years.

  8. After I initially left a comment I seem to have
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    1. Hi Holly,
      Sorry about that. The solution seems to be clicking something at the bottom of the email – according to the WordPress help files:

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