Three Pics To Pub #5 - Rebecca F. John

I'm thrilled to welcome another wonderful writer to my #3pics2pub feature, Rebecca F. John.

Her book, The Haunting of Henry Twist was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award 2017!

Rebecca and I met when we were both invited to take part in a RiffRaff event for debut novelists, a chance to read from your first published book and answer questions from an engaged audience of writers and readers. It's a great night out so if you ever get the chance to go, or are invited to take part by the lovely Amy and Rosy, I'd recommend it.

So, without further preamble, other than a cute dogs alert, here is Rebecca's journey to publication...

I was around ten when I first read Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights and, long before I had devoured the last page, convinced myself that I would one day become a novelist.  I had fallen in love with Lyra’s world – where souls took the shape of animals and polar bears spoke in gruff voices – and I longed to fall into it and discover the form of my own daemon.  Being a practical child, I realised then that, with a pen and paper, I too could create worlds.  And I set about doing so – in secret.  Admitting to being a writer requires a particular sort of bravery, I’ve found, and I’m only now managing to say the words without wincing.  Just! 

My route to publication wasn’t particularly smooth.  I wrote bad stories, I got rejected by magazines, I studied for a literature degree, I got rejected by agents, I studied for a masters, and at some point the writing must have got a little better, because in 2015 my short story collection Clown’s Shoes was published by Parthian Books.  The cover is gorgeous, and I’m very proud of it. Here I am looking pleased with myself at the launch party.

Book Launch - Clown's Shoes (2).jpg

2015, I can see now, was a significant year for me – not in terms of gaining recognition as such, but in terms of laying the foundations for the career I had long since committed myself to.  That year, I was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which led me to meet my agent Chris Wellbelove, who, after a spell of edits, put my novel, The Haunting of Henry Twist, out on submission.  I was starting to feel like a ‘real writer’. 

It was also a year of personal changes.  I bought my house and lived alone for the first time, I used my first advance to buy my little dog Betsy (a decision which was much applauded in my agent’s office), and I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I also – on account of the three dogs I acquired in quick succession – discovered my love of walking, so while I wrote and wrote and wrote, I walked and walked and walked.  I now begin every day with a walk, as many writers do.  It’s the best way, I think, to tackle sitting at a desk from the remainder of the day, and it’s a great opportunity to think about your characters’ needs, desires, actions, and mistakes without interruption.

Here is a snap of Betsy, Teddy, and Effie enjoying a beach walk.  Mercifully, I am behind the camera.

Beach hounds.jpg

In late 2015, Agent Chris sold The Haunting of Henry Twist to the wonderful people at Serpent’s Tail.  Following more edits (no I don’t like them; I can’t believe that anyone does!) the novel was published in hardback in July 2017.  The paperback followed in February of this year and here is a photo of the beautiful cover. 

I hope to publish many more books – there are so many stories I want to tell – and I feel certain that should I succeed in doing so the thrill of holding a book with my very own name on the cover will never fade.  What a special moment!

It’s a milestone that feels different for every writer, I imagine.  For me, though, the sensation consisted of equal parts joy, pride, and vindication.  All the hours I’d tucked into the spaces between work commitments and life, all the invitations I’d turned down and the writing time I’d protected from other people’s intrusions and doubts, all the horrible jobs I’d worked because I couldn’t give up on what at times seemed unattainable – holding The Haunting of Henry Twist’s lovely blue cover in my hands proved that I’d made the right decision every time.  I was a writer.  I’d known it all along, really.

Henry Twist cover.jpg

Thank you so much Rebecca for sharing your story.

The Haunting of Henry Twist: Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2017

London, 1926: Henry Twist's heavily pregnant wife leaves home to meet a friend. On the way, she is hit by a bus and killed, though miraculously the baby survives. Henry is left with nothing but his new daughter - a single father in a world without single fathers. He hurries the baby home, terrified that she'll be taken from him. Racked with guilt and fear, he stays away from prying eyes, walking her through the streets at night, under cover of darkness.

But one evening, a strange man steps out of the shadows and addresses Henry by name. The man says that he has lost his memory, but that his name is Jack. Henry is both afraid of and drawn to Jack, and the more time they spend together, the more Henry sees that this man has echoes of his dead wife. His mannerisms, some things he says ... And so Henry wonders, has his wife returned to him? Has he conjured Jack himself from thin air? Or is he in the grip of a sophisticated con man? Who really sent him?

Set in a postwar London where the Bright Young Things dance into dawn at garden parties hosted by generous old Monty, The Haunting of Henry Twist is a novel about the limits and potential of love and of grief. It is about the lengths we will go to hold on to what is precious to us, what we will forgive of those we love, and what we will sacrifice for the sake of our own happiness.

Mentoring Journey - Nikki Smith

As I begin working with a new mentee, Kate, I asked Nikki for her thoughts on the journey her manuscript has taken in the last FEW months.

I must admit, having read this I'm wondering if she should have mentored me! 

Thanks so much Nikki for being a complete pro to work with and for guesting on my blog. Here's her story...

 

 Nikki Smith - Author 

Nikki Smith - Author 

Mentoring Journey

 

On 14th November last year I was trying not to refresh Twitter every few minutes. I was desperate for news following Amanda’s offer to mentor one lucky individual. ‘Is there a number I can call you on?’ popped up as a direct message. I tried not to get my hopes up. I answered her call with my fingers crossed & have to admit I did well up when she said she’d picked me.

That was five months ago. In that time Amanda and I have been on a journey that has taken my very flabby, full of plot holes, unstructured book to a novel I’m really proud of. When I applied for the mentorship, I knew deep down some parts of my book needed work but thought most of it was probably ‘okay.’

It wasn’t.

Amanda helped me to see where the issues were and to start with she pointed some of these out. I now realise having someone who is willing to give critical feedback is absolutely essential. In the past I’d had a few people read extracts of my book, but they would often focus on what they enjoyed about it – it’s difficult for friends to give constructive criticism as they don’t want to offend you. After working with Amanda for a while I was able to recognise these issues for myself and she gave me the confidence to think of solutions to fix them. Providing feedback is one thing - but teaching someone to see that in their own work is a huge skill.

I thought I would list of some of the things I have learned on our journey together - my novel is domestic noir/suspense genre, so some of these things might not apply to other genres, but I think they probably do.

1.      Support when you are writing a book is critical. Having someone who you know has been published who you can talk to or email to get a second opinion, or ask a question, really helps. If you can’t find a mentor then try joining a writing group or go on a creative writing course to meet like minded people who know what it’s like to have spent the afternoon in front of a laptop with a blank screen, or to have filled a screen with words only to re-read them and delete the lot.

2.      Show don’t tell. I’d been told this before, but don’t think I truly realised what it meant until I was some way into my book. The reader wants to know what’s inside your characters head, but not by being told they are ‘sad’, or ‘lonely’ or ‘desperate.’ They want to see it and work it out for themselves. So, for each scene in your novel, work out what you want the reader to think and then ask yourself is your scene showing the reader that, without telling them directly.

3.      All those sentences with amazing descriptions that you’ve spent hours or days constructing? (I can’t tell you how many of these I had in my novel. I was really quite proud of them.) Unless they are CRITICAL to your plot, or really say something about your characters rather than yourself, dump them.

4.      Some writers are planners and some aren’t. I’ve read many tweets promoting the advantages of both sides. But I think that as a debut writer, it is important to think through the structure of your novel and the tense you’re writing in before you start. That’s not to say that you need a spreadsheet of every scene, but a clear overview is a good idea. I say this speaking from bitter experience – I had to re-write a third of my novel (twice!) as the first time I had far too much backstory in it (a classic error) and the second time because I hadn’t done enough research to realise something one of my characters was doing would not have been possible / realistic in real life. And yes, I did have a quiet cry on the second occasion.

5.      Avoid fluff words. Claire Fuller has a great list of these that Amanda referred me to. ‘Just’, ‘Then’ and ‘Back’ are my personal favourites. Scan through your novel for these, stand back and be amazed how many you can find. In one paragraph.

6.      Celebrate little achievements. If you finish a chapter / hit a word count for the day or even just manage to get that sentence right that you’ve been working on for hours, celebrate. The little achievements all build towards something bigger, and writing can be a lonely occupation, so if you don’t reward yourself, no-one else is likely to.  [Note to self – perhaps not as many dark chocolates will be necessary next time…]

7.      Take heart from coincidences. This may just be one for me, but there have been several weird coincidences when Amanda & I have been working that made me think – yes, this is supposed to be. My protagonist is, and has always been, an A Reynolds. Amanda swears she didn’t realise that before she accepted me as a mentee!

8.      Persevere. No-one said writing a book is easy (it isn’t) but keep going, a few words at a time and be kind to others who are on their own journey. I have found the writing community as a whole incredibly supportive so join Twitter, read books and post reviews of ones you have enjoyed on Twitter or Amazon whilst you’re writing your own.

9.      Have patience. And more patience. And a bit more patience. Oh, and a bit more patience.

10.  If you are in a position to, #payitforward. Amanda did that for me, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without her.

 

Thanks so much, Nikki for your kind words, it's been a pleasure.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN READING MY LATEST PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA

LYING TO YOU IS CURRENTLY 99P ON AMAZON

You can buy it HERE

 

  A gripping drama with dark twists and turns, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies, Anatomy of a Scandal, and Doctor Foster.    'GRIPPING and TWISTY'  Laura Marshall, No.1 bestselling author of FRIEND REQUEST  'COMPULSIVELY READABLE'  Kate Hamer, author of THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT   You think you know the truth, but what if your husband is LYING TO YOU?   When Jess Tidy was Mark Winter's student, she made a shocking accusation. Mark maintained his innocence, but the damage was done.  Karen Winter stood by her husband through everything, determined to protect her family.  Now, ten years later, Jessis back. And the truth about that night is finally going to come out . . .

A gripping drama with dark twists and turns, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies, Anatomy of a Scandal, and Doctor Foster.

'GRIPPING and TWISTY' Laura Marshall, No.1 bestselling author of FRIEND REQUEST
'COMPULSIVELY READABLE' Kate Hamer, author of THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT

You think you know the truth, but what if your husband is LYING TO YOU?

When Jess Tidy was Mark Winter's student, she made a shocking accusation. Mark maintained his innocence, but the damage was done.

Karen Winter stood by her husband through everything, determined to protect her family.

Now, ten years later, Jessis back. And the truth about that night is finally going to come out . . .

Mentoring 2018 - My Shortlist

As before, the response and quality of entries has been amazing. Thanks to everyone who took part. It takes a lot of bravery to put your work out there, pitching on social media and then sending to a total stranger. That's such an achievement, well done.

I know it's disappointing if you're not selected, but it's important to remember I can only choose one mentee and that my choices for the shortlist are entirely my own, subjective and based on the kind of work-in-progress I feel comfortable taking on. For that reason, some manuscripts, although wonderful, were still rejected. Not because they weren't 'good enough' but because I didn't feel I'd be able to add value.

Mentoring, as I've discovered working with Nikki Smith over the last few months, is a joy, but also a responsibility. I want to get it right, which means I've had to make some tough choices. Especially as the pitches and submissions were all so good. 

In no particular order, here is my shortlist. Many congratulations!

Standing Water - Anna Carr

The Forrest's End - Kate Galley

Shifting Sands - Asha North

I will now be reading these entries again in more depth to make my final choice of just one. 

If you're interested in reading my latest psychological drama

LYING TO YOU is currently 99p on Amazon

BUY HERE

Three Pics To Pub #4 - Charlotte Duckworth

I'm delighted to welcome Charlotte Duckworth, author of THE RIVAL to my irregular blog feature #3pics2pub 

Charlotte's book is a 'an addictive psychological suspense about ambition, female rivalry, and how far you'd go to get what you want'. #BringonTheRival - cannot wait!

The Rival is out this September and you can pre-order here

 I think I should go right back to the start with this one.  So here I am, six days after my baby daughter was born, looking a lot more calm and collected than I was feeling. Just before I went on maternity leave, I sold the PR business I had set up, which left me with no job to return to after my baby was born. This was rather terrifying, but in hindsight, proved to be a huge blessing. I had wanted to be a published author since I was tiny, and had actually signed with my agent years before, when I was in my early twenties. Two books and no book deal later, I was pretty crushed, and I’d taken a break from writing to focus on journalism and PR. But having my daughter and the opportunity for a complete fresh start career-wise reawakened all my old ambitions, and so I decided to write a new novel. To try again, and to use my experience of new motherhood, pregnancy and the world of work as inspiration. There were so many stories out there of women who had struggled to adjust to life as a new mother after spending years as a successful career woman, and I wondered why no one had written about them before. So I sat down, without planning, and wrote every evening when my baby was asleep. I finished the first draft in ten weeks.

I think I should go right back to the start with this one.  So here I am, six days after my baby daughter was born, looking a lot more calm and collected than I was feeling. Just before I went on maternity leave, I sold the PR business I had set up, which left me with no job to return to after my baby was born. This was rather terrifying, but in hindsight, proved to be a huge blessing. I had wanted to be a published author since I was tiny, and had actually signed with my agent years before, when I was in my early twenties. Two books and no book deal later, I was pretty crushed, and I’d taken a break from writing to focus on journalism and PR. But having my daughter and the opportunity for a complete fresh start career-wise reawakened all my old ambitions, and so I decided to write a new novel. To try again, and to use my experience of new motherhood, pregnancy and the world of work as inspiration. There were so many stories out there of women who had struggled to adjust to life as a new mother after spending years as a successful career woman, and I wondered why no one had written about them before. So I sat down, without planning, and wrote every evening when my baby was asleep. I finished the first draft in ten weeks.

 Here I am with my awesome Faber Academy group last year in the Welsh countryside. When I decided to ‘go for it’ again with the novel-writing madness, I thought it would be good to get out of the house and meet likeminded people. So I signed up to do the Faber Academy’s six-month Writing a Novel course. I loved every second of it. It was such a joy to get back to using my brain after a year of taking care of my daughter, and I relished the opportunity to learn more about writing. Despite the fact I’d finished novels before, I still had so much to learn. But more than anything else, being on the course made me unexpectedly disciplined. I was determined to finish my novel by the time the course ended, and thankfully I managed it. At the end of the Faber course, there’s an agents’ reading day, and by the time that day came around, my book was already on submission to publishers. It was the fastest I’d ever written anything, and a massive testament to my belief that mothers are the most motivated workers out there, despite what history and perceived ‘wisdom’ would try to make you believe.

Here I am with my awesome Faber Academy group last year in the Welsh countryside. When I decided to ‘go for it’ again with the novel-writing madness, I thought it would be good to get out of the house and meet likeminded people. So I signed up to do the Faber Academy’s six-month Writing a Novel course. I loved every second of it. It was such a joy to get back to using my brain after a year of taking care of my daughter, and I relished the opportunity to learn more about writing. Despite the fact I’d finished novels before, I still had so much to learn. But more than anything else, being on the course made me unexpectedly disciplined. I was determined to finish my novel by the time the course ended, and thankfully I managed it. At the end of the Faber course, there’s an agents’ reading day, and by the time that day came around, my book was already on submission to publishers. It was the fastest I’d ever written anything, and a massive testament to my belief that mothers are the most motivated workers out there, despite what history and perceived ‘wisdom’ would try to make you believe.

 Having a book on submission is a tortuous process, and I was lucky that my experience this time was mercifully short. A couple of weeks after the book was sent to publishers, my agent received two offers on the same day. Having a choice of publisher was not a situation I had ever imagined being in! After much deliberation, we decided to accept Quercus’s offer. The book isn’t out until September 2018, so I can’t show you a picture of it yet. But here’s a photo of my beautiful proofs instead, which arrived a few weeks ago. I am in love with my cover – which was a huge relief given that not all authors feel that way. I think it looks so mysterious and chilling, and I really hope that readers will feel the same once it hits the shops! Being published by a major publishing house – and especially being edited by a professional at the top of their game – is a really privileged, humbling experience. After all the years it’s taken me to get here, I will never take it for granted.

Having a book on submission is a tortuous process, and I was lucky that my experience this time was mercifully short. A couple of weeks after the book was sent to publishers, my agent received two offers on the same day. Having a choice of publisher was not a situation I had ever imagined being in! After much deliberation, we decided to accept Quercus’s offer. The book isn’t out until September 2018, so I can’t show you a picture of it yet. But here’s a photo of my beautiful proofs instead, which arrived a few weeks ago. I am in love with my cover – which was a huge relief given that not all authors feel that way. I think it looks so mysterious and chilling, and I really hope that readers will feel the same once it hits the shops! Being published by a major publishing house – and especially being edited by a professional at the top of their game – is a really privileged, humbling experience. After all the years it’s taken me to get here, I will never take it for granted.

The Rival is published by Quercus on 6 September 2018.

You can find out more on Charlotte’s website, and chat to her on Twitter

The Tricky Second Book

Lying To You Darkened Cover Image.jpg

It's widely thought that second books, like second albums, are tricky things. I was certainly advised by more experienced authors to make sure I'd written the next book before my first book was published.

When CLOSE TO ME came out this time last year, I thought I understood what to expect. I'd wanted to be a published author for many years, had worked hard to get there, a few abandoned manuscripts behind me, so surely writing another book would be the same?

In some ways that was true, but second books have to compete with the first one. Not just in terms of reviews and sales, but also for the author's time : attending events, writing features and blog posts, keeping up with support on social media, and of course enjoying the launch.

I started writing my second book as soon as the edits were completed on book one. By paperback publication of CLOSE TO ME in July, I had a good first draft of LYING TO YOU. I attended my first Harrogate Crime Writers' Festival and anticipated a few edits after I got back. In fact, book two would go through two major rewrites in the following months. 

I'm very proud of LYING TO YOU, so even though it proved to be much trickier than I'd anticipated, I know that it's all been worth it. 

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much I loved writing it; every last 'tricksy' word.

LYING TO YOU - publishes in eBook & Audio April 1st 2018

Paperback 26th July 2018

You'd know if you were lying to yourself, wouldn't you?

When Jess Tidy was Mark Winter's student, she made an accusation that ultimately saw him sentenced to three years in prison. A jury found him guilty, but he always maintained his innocence. Now, Jess's mother's death has brought her back to the village where she grew up, and where Mark still lives with his wife. And the truth about that night ten years ago which nearly destroyed them both is finally going to come out.

 

 

Cover Reveal

Friday was an exciting day for me as the cover was revealed on social media for my second book, LYING TO YOU, publishing this April.

I love how the cover depicts the themes of the book...what goes on behind closed doors, and how we present an image to the world that may be very different than reality.

The eyes peeking out capture the inner domestic tensions perfectly and I love the colours. 

I hope you like it too.

Lying To You Darkened Cover Image.jpg

Looking Back on 2017

I'm ending this year as a published author in the UK, Italy and US. It's been quite a year, but mainly I've been sitting at my computer writing, just as I like it... 

Last night I was interviewed for US radio about CLOSE TO ME. The hardback US version has just published and Quercus have arranged lots of great promotion, despite the fact I'm thousands of miles away and in a different time zone! The interviewer - wonderful Pam Stack of Authors on the Air (who reads 400 books a year!!!) - asked me what's on my Bucket List, and it was really the only question I struggled to answer.

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The thing is...all I want is to carry on doing what I love. To perpetuate this constant ever-present desire to elucidate, resonate and create. Everything else, the signings, book events, travel, interviews, literary festivals...they're great fun, and I LOVE doing them, but they're not the main part of being a writer, which is turning up every day to write.

Before I go any further, I should temper my Pollyanna tendencies when I talk about writing with a few thoughts, because in life nothing is ever perfect, not in my experience, and it's important to add a note of realism. My life as a published writer is the fulfilment of a long-held dream, but of course there are good days and bad. When it's lonely, difficult, not happening. Writing is tough - not nursing or coal-mining tough - but it's intense, and esoteric and endlessly challenging. No one does it for you, not even your brilliant agent or editor. They suggest, critique, tease-out better ideas, but it's your book, and you are the one who will write it. 

So why is writing so special? Why keep going when you face rejection, get a bad review, or would prefer to scrub out the sink than write another word?

For me it's easy...utter escapism.

When I write I lose myself to a different world, one where my troubles have no place, where I build homes, backdrops, villages, towns, cities, and populate them with people I've never met, who become friends, or enemies, who embody emotions I've felt or observed in others, who say things I would never dare to say, who right wrongs, make mistakes, and live extraordinary lives.

What better job could there ever be? 

HAPPY 2018 EVERYONE! 

CHECK BACK SOON FOR EXCITING NEWS OF BOOK TWO INCLUDING A COVER REVEAL AND DETAILS OF REVIEW COPIES

 CLOSE TO ME is available to buy  here

CLOSE TO ME is available to buy here

Three Pics To Pub #3 - Fiona Mitchell The Maid's Room

My third guest for #3PICS2PUB is Fiona Mitchell, author of The Maid's Room, published last month by Hodder & Stoughton.

Fiona has kindly sent me a copy of her book, and I think it's one of the prettiest covers I've seen. I cannot wait to read it. I hope you enjoy Fiona's inspirational journey to publication. 

  The First Draft   I wrote the first chapter of  The Maid’s Room  when I was on holiday in Sri Lanka in December 2010. I’d travelled there from Singapore where I was living at the time. Back then, women working long hours as live-in domestic helpers in Singapore had no legal right to a day off. Some of them were made to sleep in tiny windowless rooms, while others were forced to sleep outside. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could treat another human being so abominably, so I started to write as a way of trying to find some answers and venting my anger. Writing, researching then rewriting, meant that it took me seven years to complete that first draft.

The First Draft

I wrote the first chapter of The Maid’s Room when I was on holiday in Sri Lanka in December 2010. I’d travelled there from Singapore where I was living at the time. Back then, women working long hours as live-in domestic helpers in Singapore had no legal right to a day off. Some of them were made to sleep in tiny windowless rooms, while others were forced to sleep outside. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could treat another human being so abominably, so I started to write as a way of trying to find some answers and venting my anger. Writing, researching then rewriting, meant that it took me seven years to complete that first draft.

  The Rejection Letters    It was only when I’d ‘finished’ writing my novel that I discovered I’d need a literary agent to get traditionally published. And so the submission process began – an experience otherwise known as HELL. The rejection letters flowed in, and my initial optimism crumbled away. After receiving thirty or so rejection letters (I gave up counting after 20), I decided to work on something new. My second novel was a literary love story set on a remote Scottish island. Not much happened in it, apart from lots of sex. I sent this book out to agents too, and all of them gave it the thumbs-down. (This is a picture of some its shredded pages.) A writer friend of mine persuaded me to return to my first book, so I took its core idea and wrote a new story around it, one punctuated with hope and humour.

The Rejection Letters

It was only when I’d ‘finished’ writing my novel that I discovered I’d need a literary agent to get traditionally published. And so the submission process began – an experience otherwise known as HELL. The rejection letters flowed in, and my initial optimism crumbled away. After receiving thirty or so rejection letters (I gave up counting after 20), I decided to work on something new. My second novel was a literary love story set on a remote Scottish island. Not much happened in it, apart from lots of sex. I sent this book out to agents too, and all of them gave it the thumbs-down. (This is a picture of some its shredded pages.) A writer friend of mine persuaded me to return to my first book, so I took its core idea and wrote a new story around it, one punctuated with hope and humour.

  The Actual Book   I sent this new book out, and several agents asked to read the full manuscript. They all said no, but somehow I managed to scrape my shrivelled ego off the floor and kept going. I found an editor who helped me untangle my mess of a plot, then literary agent Rowan Lawton agreed to represent me (which still feels like a small miracle). Rowan and her team took my manuscript to Frankfurt book fair and got me my very first publishing deal in Denmark. I was sitting in a supermarket carpark when I read that email and whooped very loudly indeed. Later that evening, a publishing house in Norway offered on my book too. And the following week, I signed further contracts with Penguin in Spain and Mondadori in Italy. My book went to auction in the UK, and I signed with Hodder & Stoughton who published  The Maid’s Room  in hardback in November this year. At my launch party, I was elated to be holding my book in my hands. It felt like holding seven years of toil, grit and a refusal to give up, even when carrying on seemed like a fool’s errand. It just goes to show that no matter how many knock-backs you have, getting published is all about perseverance.

The Actual Book

I sent this new book out, and several agents asked to read the full manuscript. They all said no, but somehow I managed to scrape my shrivelled ego off the floor and kept going. I found an editor who helped me untangle my mess of a plot, then literary agent Rowan Lawton agreed to represent me (which still feels like a small miracle). Rowan and her team took my manuscript to Frankfurt book fair and got me my very first publishing deal in Denmark. I was sitting in a supermarket carpark when I read that email and whooped very loudly indeed. Later that evening, a publishing house in Norway offered on my book too. And the following week, I signed further contracts with Penguin in Spain and Mondadori in Italy. My book went to auction in the UK, and I signed with Hodder & Stoughton who published The Maid’s Room in hardback in November this year. At my launch party, I was elated to be holding my book in my hands. It felt like holding seven years of toil, grit and a refusal to give up, even when carrying on seemed like a fool’s errand. It just goes to show that no matter how many knock-backs you have, getting published is all about perseverance.

THE MAID’S ROOM IS PUBLISHED IN HARDBACK BY HODDER & STOUGHTON

A Worthy Winner!

After 140 Likes, 107 Retweets, 25 pitches, 4 short-listed entries, and 1 very tough decision, I have a winner!

I am very pleased to announce that I will be mentoring Nikki Smith, author of Falling Apart.

I loved Nikki's pitch, and when I read the synopsis and her first chapter I was blown away. 

Nikki writes domestic noir in First Person POV, so I think we're a great fit. I can't wait to start working with her. Her concept is unique, and I love her writing style. Watch this space!

Thanks again to all of you who took part: pitching, 'liking', or retweeting to spread the word.

Many congratulations also to those short-listed, the quality of submissions was very high, and I hope you are all encouraged by your short-list selection.

And thanks also to my wonderful agent, Sarah Williams at Sophie Hicks Agency who has agreed to place the winning entry at the top of her 'to-read' pile once it's ready for submission. A wonderful gesture, and an excellent opportunity.

If any other authors are considering mentoring an unpublished writer, I would urge you do so. It's been amazing to receive all the lovely emails thanking me for this opportunity, but it has also made me realise how many writers out there are waiting for a bit of guidance and encouragement to spur them on.

So let's pay it forward!

 

Mentoring - Short List

Some of the best things I've done have happened because I took a chance. So, last week, feeling a bit down-in-the-dumps, I thought I'd cheer myself up by hopefully cheering up someone else. 

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The response blew me away, not only the amount of people who responded, but also the quality of the pitches. The burden of choosing fell heavily on me as I had no idea I would receive so many fantastic submissions. BUT...I can only choose one person to mentor; time and commitment involved on both sides. 

I have now read all the submissions, and here is my short list of four from which I shall choose just ONE. Well done to everyone who took part, and please don't be disheartened if you're not on the short list, purely my subjective opinion based on my taste, and whether I think I'm the best fit to be your mentor. I'll announce my final choice from the shortlist in the coming days.

 

In no particular order...my shortlist

Somewhere In The Universe - Lia Louis

The Waves Crashed Down Upon Them - Lori Inglis Hall

Falling Apart - Nikki Smith

The Spaces Between Lies - Valerie Whelan

 

Well done to my final four, I am so impressed!

I'll be reading the above submissions in more detail in the coming days to decide on a winner. The prize will be an in-depth critique/ongoing mentoring partnership to help produce a submission package to send out to agents/publishers.