Writing is a lonely way to spend your day; we all know that. Sitting in front of that screen/notebook with my sixth cup of coffee cooling by my side, the Penguin wrapper fluttering on my desk as I sadly sigh. Waiting for inspiration to strike it often felt as though nothing would ever change. One day I will be found, covered in cobwebs and screwed up bits of paper, my fingers still attached to the keyboard…
But then sometimes I read about other writers who have pushed through the pain and found an agent or a publisher and it made me feel maybe there was hope. There are people out there after all! Not all the submissions and emails I sent off to agents and publishers were going into a black hole somewhere west of Jupiter.
My husband Brian believed in me from day one. He was the one who supported me, cheered me on when there was nothing much to cheer if I’m honest, bought me the laptop and the desk and dealt with my addiction to stationery and Sharpies in every colour. (I don’t actually need them, I just can’t resist them.)
My best friend Jane Ayres and I had a two-person writing group for some time until we met up with several like minded writers on Twitter and formed the Literary Lovelies group with Kirsten, Catherine, Karen, Christina, Susanna and Chris. There is nothing like it for encouragement and support so thank you all.xx
Debi Alper, a terrific writer and editor gave me real encouragement when I met her at the 2013 Festival of Writing in York. In 2014 I did the Self Edit Course on the Cloud run by Debi and Emma Darwin and learned so much. I’d recommend it to any debut writer. Little did I know I still had a few years apprenticeship to serve before I too would have good news to share, but at long last –I do!
I tried several different genres over the years, paranormal, magical realism, historical, contemporary and none of them really gelled. Then I realised the most enjoyable times I had on the writing retreats I run with my bestie Jane Ayres, were when everyone was laughing. I’ll never forget the evening writing exercise in Caldicot when we tried to write love scenes without naming parts of the body. Absolutely hysterical stuff. So I changed to writing feel-good romantic comedy and that’s when I found my ‘voice’.
On another retreat the delightful Chris Manby was our tutor for a few lovely days in Cornwall she taught me how to plot properly. Out of that week came the book initially called The Education of Lottie Calder. I submitted it to agents in the spring of last year and within 2 days I had a request for a full MS from Annette Green. A few days later we spoke on the phone and had a fairly lengthy conversation about what else I was writing, where I saw my writing career going (I have a writing career?) and general stuff about how I might change a few things in my WIP.
The phone call ended with me saying to her ‘So does that mean you’re going to be my agent?’ There was a slight pause and she said in a patient voice, ‘Well of course I’m going to be your agent.’ (Like duh? Slow learner alert!)
Oh boy, was that a great moment. I have an agent!
Jane and I then hosted a writing retreat in Derbyshire where I couldn’t go into a room with out a great deal of teasing about Having an Agent! Thank you John, Julie, Bella, Vanessa, Kirsten, Janette, Hilary, Gail, Mandy and Fiona!!
Annette (did I tell you, she’s my agent) sent my work out and found a publisher. There that sounds easy doesn’t it?
As Debi Alper once told me, everything in the publishing industry works at a glacial pace, but eventually Annette placed Lottie with Avon Maze, part of Harper Collins.
Just after Christmas I met with Rachel Faulkner Willcocks who became my editor. (Now I have an editor!) We discussed Lottie again and Rachel made some suggestions. Would I change the title? Of course. Would I use a nom de Plume? Yes. (By this time of course I would have said yes to just about anything!)
A few days later I had an email from Rachel. The board loved the book, they thought it was hilarious, they ‘got’ it. They wanted to offer me a two-book deal. (A two-book deal!)
The first would come out in July 2017, the next one provisionally in February 2018. Would that be acceptable?
Well of course I sat quietly and thought about it…
No I didn’t I ran around the room screaming.
My husband Brian, without whom none of this would have been possible, bought champagne, flowers and even a handbag called a Lottie.
On top of that I have a contract. Signed by real people in the publishing world!
The book has been re-titled The Summer of Second Chances, I’ve been re-titled Maddie, any day now I will find out what the cover will look like. I’ve since done some structural edit and some other edits. If they are ok it will go to the copy editor to make sure I can spell properly. Meanwhile book two is done and waiting in the wings and I’m on to my next one. Last week I went to have some professional photographs done and hopefully they will make me look intelligent and well groomed. For a change.
So you see it really can happen, it’s taken a lot of persistence, patience and luck. I just happened to put the right book on the right desk at the right time. And so can you!