Little did I think when I found a tattered old recipe book and began writing The Paris Affair that I would one day have a 2-book deal.
Amazingly, against all the odds, that's what has happened.
Miraculously, I now have an incredible editor to work with, Hannah Smith, who is backed up by an amazing team at Penguin Michael Joseph. I still can't believe it's happening and I'm trying to savour every moment.
My writing journey has been circuitous but rewarding with 'every step an arrival', as the poet Denise Levertov puts it. There have been many ups and downs along the way, and, although the destination of UK publication never wholly left my mind, I've tried to enjoy each stage for its own sake.
Some of the milestones I've experienced include:
the first rush of inspiration
finding an agent
light bulb moments when editing
countless epiphanies about characters
securing a book deal with a German publisher
But still, getting a book deal with a UK publisher, and being able to make writing more than a spare time activity, remained elusive. It was one of my long-held dreams. I knew almost everything about trying to reach to this milestone, but nothing about what would happen next if I did.
Wandering around in a daze after the UK deal was completed, I turned to an excellent blog by Lily Lindon, an editor at The Novelry. The Stages of Publishing a Novel (thenovelry.com) gives advice about what comes after the book deal. It's full of practical and helpful information on the post-deal publication process and the emotional experience of the newly contracted writer.
One part of the blog really struck a chord:
Why is it you want(ed) to be published in the first place? Is it to see your name on the shelves of a bookshop? To have a reader contact you saying they connected with your writing?
It can be powerful to write a note to yourself about what your real ambition is as a writer. Do it now! Then you can return, always, to how you felt before your book deal. Remember how much past-you wanted to be present-you.
I haven't written that note to myself yet (I've been too busy editing The Paris Affair) but I've made a promise not to leave it too long. In this fresh, new territory of being a writer with a UK publishing contract, I'd like to be able to look back and remember:
what inspired me to write in the first place
exactly how it felt to get the news that my book had a champion
the joy of hearing that my editor-to-be had been moved to tears by the story
how it felt to know that my writing could finally spread its wings and take flight into my daily life, instead of having to occupy little pockets of time in between work and other responsibilities
I hope that anyone who is chasing publication will take heart from my story. It seems impossible to get a deal until the moment when suddenly it is possible. The switch from despairing hope to joy is instantaneous and remarkable.
I know, however, that it's not always easy to stay positive when self-doubt and life get in the way - I hope to share more about my writing struggles in these blogs in the future - but somehow, here I am, writing a blog about getting a UK deal, something I never thought would happen. I feel very grateful for all the support and encouragement I've had from my agent, Rebecca Ritchie at A.M. Heath, my family and friends, work colleagues and other writers.
So what does happen when a dream comes true? Well, I'm still finding out: 'every step an arrival'.