The Ups and Downs of a Writer #writing #writerscommunity

publicity photos:magazinesTen years ago this week, I decided to write a novel that would entertain, make readers laugh and would resonate with them.

I hadn’t thought about becoming ‘a writer’. I believed I was a one-trick pony. I wrote the book but by the end of it, I had caught the writing bug, along with an idea for a sequel, and a series of non-fiction comedies based on similar themes.

I sent endless emails to agents and publishers but my book and ideas were rejected, time after time after time. In the end, I turned to self-publication, put the book up on Amazon and, using FeedARead, got my book into print.

I read somewhere that a writer can count themselves lucky if they sell 400 copies of their debut novel in a year. In the ensuing 12 months, I sold only half that number, but by the start of 2011, thanks to the generosity of the blogging community and book reviewers who agreed to read a book from an unknown writer, sales suddenly gathered momentum and 5-star reviews even appeared in newspapers and magazines. By January 2012, I found myself featured in Woman’s Own magazine, in an article about best-selling writers.

A life of a writer has ups and downs, successes and failures. It is a bumpy road. Every success is hard-fought and writing the book is only the beginning. The rest is endless promotion, connecting with readers, doing talks, writing press releases, keeping up relations with bloggers, and constantly trying to get your name out there. It is tough! Oh boy, is it tough! It can result in anxiety and sleepless nights, and some days, you are so busy trying to juggle everything, there is barely enough time to write another book let alone live life.

What you require is tenacity and patience. Luckily, I have both and eventually they paid off. My biggest ‘lucky break’ and pivotal turning point came when editor Lydia Vassar-Smith at Bookouture saw my potential and I was offered a contract. It was with her guidance that I moved from comedy to the dark side – probably the best move I could ever have made. Today, my crime series have sold well over 600,000 copies and have been translated into several languages.

Let me say, the journey hasn’t been easy, but it has certainly had its highlights including:

  • Being interviewed on BBC Breakfast television (not once but twice) (You can watch that interview by clicking HERE)
  • Appearing on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show
  • Becoming a regular blogger for the Huffington Post (Read my posts by clicking HERE)
  • Winning the People’ Book Prize award in 2015 and being interviewed on Sky News (Watch the ceremony on YouTube HERE .You can see me receiving my award at 7.45 minutes into the video)
  • Becoming a ‘loud mouth’ on BBC Radio Derby and appearing regularly on the breakfast show
  • Having articles published in national magazines including Woman’s Weekly, Choice and Take a Break.
  • Being interviewed for The Writing Magazine – one of my dreams
  • Little Girl Lost becoming a USA Today Top 150 best-selling novel
  • Having the #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible
  • Being the author of several #1 best-selling novels
  • Listening to the audiobook versions of all my crime novels
  • Seeing my books published in other languages
  • Being taken on by literary agent Amy Tannenbaum from the Jane Rotrosen Agency in New York
  • Signing a 3-book deal with Thomas & Mercer

I won’t list the lows. I try to learn from them rather than dwell on them. Suffice to say, there were plenty but ultimately, they don’t matter because, in spite of the sleepless nights, I have enjoyed myself hugely. I have loved creating and living with my characters and even more than that, sharing them and their lives with you.

Books with Bookouture.pngAnd finally, and most importantly, I have loved meeting you all. Before I began writing I was a reclusive, lonely woman, shut inside a house with little sense of purpose. The day I began writing and blogging was the day my world opened up. I have met so many people virtually who I count as friends. I have a wonderful Street Team who support me and chat to me regularly, and who I can’t thank enough. There are also three people I wish to mention who began this journey with me and who I met while I was blogging as research for that first novel. They are my ‘Golden Girls’  – Diane Croad, Barbara Brannon White and Pam Lofton who all began blogging at the same time as  I did and welcomed me into their lives. I shall be forever grateful for their endless enthusiasm and support.

So what about the next ten years? Well, more crime novels, two new series and another couple of comedies are all planned in my head so… here’s to the next ten!

Header Image Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

 

 

 

Research Gone Mad #MondayMotivation #MondayMorning @bookouture

In August 1980 my life turned upside down. What was to be a simple hospital procedure saw me paralysed and facing a year of uncertainty, fear and major surgery.

I was a 20-year-old university student who suddenly was unsure of the future. My life, my boyfriend, and my studies were all up in the air. I’ll spare you the gory details and the struggles, and say I was lucky. Oh my goodness, I was very lucky and my life only temporarily derailed. It did however, give me the inspiration and reason to write this book.

Take A Chance on Me FB-Graphic4Take A Chance On Me is set in a hospital radio station where Charlie, whose daughter has tragically been killed in a car accident, is struggling to find reason to life. Aided by her best-friend, wheelchair-bound Mercedes, she faces a journey she could never have imagined, that will lead her to… well… you’d have to read the book to find out.

Today sees the anniversary of the book’s release and it is still to date, my favourite book. I wrote it to inspire people who face challenging times, to give them hope and to remind everyone not to give up even when life seems impossible. We must all seize opportunities, take chances and live life.

The book took over a year to complete, not because of the complexity of the story, but more due to the fact I actually did all the challenges that Charlie faces in the book: from eating a bush-tucker trial at the very restaurant she is taken to, doing a zip wire (like Charlie I have a morbid fear of heights) to diving with sharks.

Take A Chance on Me FB-Graphic5Like most writers, I take research very seriously, but never did I think I’d be taking a belly-dancing class, scoffing locusts, mealworms, ants and kangaroo, then zorbing down a hill in a huge inflatable ball, all on the same day – Suffice to say, I didn’t feel too great by the end of the day, but at least my book is based on genuine experience!

Take a Chance on Me has received a huge amount of praise and I love getting emails from readers who have written out a bucket list after finishing the book and are taking on personal challenges.

Life’s short. Seize the day! Carpe Diem. 

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME available from  Amazon UKAmazon US – GooglePlay

Day in the Life of a Writer and Her Grumpy and more #writers-life #new-release

biggie smallsLast week, I was interviewed by chellesandbbooks and I thought I’d share the interview with you. If you ever wondered where my inspiration comes from, or which character I’d really like to bitch slap, read on….

Please tell us a little about What Happens in France and where your ideas for the book came from?
It’s a feel-good story about Bryony Masters, a somewhat quiet and reclusive teacher, whose sister, Hannah, ran away from home when she was 16. Bryony blames herself for the incident and has over the years, tried to find Hannah, but to no avail.

When her father has a sudden stroke, she is propelled into taking more drastic action and egged on by her best friend, Melinda, applies for a televised gameshow in the desperate hope she can use it as a platform to find her sister.

The show is filmed in France and she finds herself teamed up with the gorgeous but unattainable Lewis, and a bunch of hilarious competitors, including a limelight-stealing pug – Biggie Smalls. With Lewis’s help she has to fight off the competition and take part in a series of wacky and fun challenges, not to win the prize but to get the winners’ ten minutes of air time at the end of the show each day, which she uses to find Hannah.

As for the book’s inspiration, well, it was a mishmash of things. My mother suffered very badly from St Vitus Dance as a child and relayed the horrors of her own childhood which gave me the kernel of the idea for the Hannah and Bryony plot. That led me onto how Bryony would manage to find her sister and in turn, took me down the gameshow route. Given our obsession with shows like Love Island and the like, it seemed an ideal solution, so I applied for a variety of gameshows to see what I could find out. I ended up on quite a few (all in the name of research) but they helped fuel my ideas for the ridiculous challenges and games Bryony and Lewis have to tackle.

Finally, I am an absolute Francophile and have lived and worked in France. Nowadays, I visit the country several times a year, renting small gites, so it seemed the perfect place to set the book. A few years ago, my husband, AKA Mr Grumpy, and I travelled around Brittany and the Loire-Atlantique and stayed in chateaux along the way. It was such fun we went back a few more times and saw as much of the regions as we could.

Do you have a favourite character or scene from What Happens in France?

Read more and my life with Grumpy by clicking this link HERE which will open another window and take you to the interview.

 

A Writer’s Life #writing #inspiration

LGL RABBITMy mother always knew she’d die of cancer – that or a heart attack. She’d been a heavy smoker since she was 18 and I mean heavy. At one stage she was smoking over 60 cigarettes a day.

It was no surprise when, after a bout of pneumonia, doctors found the tell-tale signs on a chest X-ray and diagnosed stage four lung cancer. The surprise was she was already 81 years old and had outlived my father by almost fifteen years.

I raced down from Staffordshire to Hampshire to find her in good spirits. The doctors had told her she had a few weeks left or maybe a couple of months, and she shrugged at the news. “I’ve had a good life. I’m fine about it. I’m ready to go,” she said.

She was ready to depart this life until she found out I was writing a thriller. My mother was a huge reader and although she’d read and enjoyed my comedies to date, especially the early ones where she’d been the inspiration for Amanda Wilson’s partying mother, the thought I was writing a thriller – her favourite genre – made her eyes light up. “Tell me about it,” she said, patting the settee next to her. I did. I was setting the book part in Staffordshire and part in Hampshire where I’d spent many years. Her eyes shone as we discussed the places I mentioned, each bringing back happy memories. ‘Tell me more when you visit next time,’ she said, as she settled down for the night. “I want to read this book of yours. When will it be published?”

“January 2017,” I replied.

‘I’ll try and make it.”

Days turned into weeks. I would travel down to Farnborough by train, go through the book with my mother and we’d reminisce. Each evening, I would stay at a nearby hotel because she didn’t want me to hear her coughing all night, and I would type for several hours, sometimes all night, ideas fresh in my mind from talking to Mum and emotion running high as I worried about her.

Weeks turned to months. “I don’t think I have cancer at all,” she’d say, dressed in her best blouse and lips painted fuchsia pink. “I feel fine.” She seemed well although she was losing weight. I took her out for her 82nd birthday and we drank wine. “I haven’t had wine for months,” she said, with glee. Back home she insisted I read some of the draft to the book. I never normally read my drafts to anyone but I did. “I like Robyn Carter,” she said. “She has guts. She’s a good character.”

In brief, my mother became my supporter for what was to become LITTLE GIRL LOST. She listened to each idea, chapter, and characterisation and praised or suggested alterations.

The month I was due to submit the script – my first ever thriller, I was working flat out day and night. Travelling to and from Farnborough and lack of sleep was taking its toll on my own health. Anxiety at what was to come, ate at me. Mum, however, was in good form, determined she was going to Cyprus in September to visit friends as she did every year, and was trying to get clearance from the doctor to fly.

The first week of August she wasn’t too well. She sounded tired and vague. I said I’d catch a train and visit her. ‘No. Finish that book. I want to read it,’ she said. ‘I’m fine.’

I went anyway and it was clear she wouldn’t be able to go to Cyprus. She’d taken a turn for the worst. She was glassy-eyed as I talked to her and not really listening. When I stood to leave, with promises I’d be down again the following week. She shook her head. ‘No. Don’t come down. I’m too tired for visitors. I want to read your book. It sounds wonderful. Finish it.’

By now, the book was behind schedule and I’d missed my deadline. I had to get it to my editor. I typed well into each night, changing, rewriting, remembering what Mum and I had talked about. Fuelled by medication and emotion, I poured my heart and soul into every word.

August 23rd 2016, at 4.30 p.m. I pressed the send button. My manuscript had gone. I booked a ticket to travel to Farnborough for that weekend. Fifteen minutes later I received a call to say my mother had just passed away.

It seems too great a coincidence to me that she hung on until the very day LITTLE GIRL LOST was submitted. Not even the same day but only a quarter of an hour after I pressed the send button. Maybe I read too much into it all, but I see my mother as the book’s good luck charm. It was the book that made me a name. It was the book that soared up the Amazon charts and brought me success and it is the book that will forever be the book I wrote for my mother.

* * * * *

LITTLE GIRL LOST became the #2 best-selling book on Amazon UK charts #9 best audiobook, a top ten best-seller in Pocket Shop bookshops, and was a top 150 best-seller in USA Today charts.