I always knew that one day I wanted to write for a living, but I didn’t expect it to happen till later. ‘Expect’ isn’t the right word – it makes it sound like I was sure it would happen, but then I suppose on some level I was, because books is all I’ve ever wanted to do. All through childhood I was coming up with ideas and stories and characters, stapling makeshift books together and drawing terrible pictures in them (don’t worry: I’ve never attempted to illustrate a bonkbuster) and it’s always been a perfect fit. Being alone with my imagination is my favourite thing in the world. That sounds weird but I think all writers have it.
After university I worked in publishing. The industry opened my eyes to the business of producing books: prior to that I thought it was a bunch of creative types floating about in chiffon and spending whole days discussing class irony in E M Forster. Publishing is an industry like any other. It’s market-driven, highly competitive and incredibly difficult for debut authors to break. A common misconception is that every author published is going to be the next J K Rowling – managing expectations is something you have to get your head around pretty fast! But it also gave me confidence. Editing books taught me about structure and form, plot and development, the exchange between writer and publisher and how the novel moves from haphazard manuscript to final polished form. I wasn’t sitting there thinking, Now I’m going to have a go – I love the editorial process and intended to stay in publishing for some time – but when I had an idea for a book, a time-dependent one, I knew I had to make a decision.
It was writing a partial manuscript for that idea that secured me my agent. Because I worked in the trade I sent it out under a writer’s name so I could remain anonymous, and likewise when we submitted to publishers. However the timing of the partial was too early (that one is now going to be my third book: watch this space!) and I had to decide whether to throw myself into writing completely or continue with it in my evenings and weekends. I’ve never been that good at splitting focus – it’s one or the other and that gets everything – so I handed my notice in a week or so later. It was a difficult call as I loved the work but was fortunate that I still had the opportunity to take on freelance editing from time to time. Thank god for that in the beginning: money was a concern so I gave myself three months to write HOLLYWOOD SINNERS and five months to get a deal. It was a risk but one I felt I had to take. There’s nothing worse than wondering, What if?
HOLLYWOOD SINNERS faced a lot of rejections. Ten, I think? And then at the last minute MIRA picked it up, and straightaway I 100% knew that they ‘got’ the book and wanted to put behind it this amazing amount of passion and drive. All it takes is one and luckily my one is the best publisher I could ever have hoped for. MIRA have such a brilliant eye; they’re digitally savvy and commercially smart – a winning team. When they showed me the beautiful HOLLYWOOD SINNERS cover I wet myself. (Not really, but I was very excited.)
From here, the road is anyone’s guess. Authors and publishers can do their very best for a book but ultimately it’s the readers who decide. I’m keeping everything crossable crossed that HOLLYWOOD SINNERS connects with people and they want to pick it up and enjoy it. But who knows? That is part of the life and career I’m pursuing and if anything the uncertainty makes it more exciting. The road to publication is long, but the road after it is, I hope, much longer . . .