A Special Thank You

When my publisher suggested we have an official book launch for the release of my fourth book The Missing Husband, throwing a party sounded like a great excuse to have some fun. Even as I sipped a glass Prosecco in Liverpool One with the fabulous team at HarperCollins before heading over to Waterstones for the official event, I wasn’t expecting it to be more than a lovely opportunity to gather friends and family together to join in the celebrations. I never imagined I would get so emotional until I was standing in front of all those people who had supported me along the way. And when I say emotional, I mean we were all in tears.

Getting emotional!

Getting emotional!

There are only few occasions when you have a chance to bring together all the people who have been important in your life, but this was certainly one of them. It was a rare opportunity to say thank you to everyone and to let them know how important their support has been to me. The speech I was planning should have been simple enough to deliver because I’ve been doing quite a few author talks lately in the run up to publication day, and I was happy enough chatting about not only my new novel, my writing habits and my story development, but how I came to be a writer in the first place. I’ve visited libraries and explained to readers how I only had three years and ten months with my son but that little boy transformed my life. I’ve gone on to explain how Nathan’s death changed me, but it was his life that inspired me. I’m comfortable talking about my son and my grief, but standing in front of everyone that evening at the book launch, I didn’t need to do any of the usual explaining because they already knew. So many of those familiar faces looking at me with tears in their eyes had been part of that journey, from my amazing family and friends who supported me and my daughter through Nathan’s illness and beyond, to the new friends I’ve made along the way.

Kim Young and Martha Ashby

Kim Young and Martha Ashby

My publisher Kim Young and editor Martha Ashby said some lovely things about me in their introductions, so they have to share some of the blame in making me so emotional! But if there was one thing that got to me most of all, it was looking at my beautiful daughter in the crowd and (when I wasn’t getting all choked up) being able to tell her how proud I am of her and how much she means to me. I have been blessed with two amazing children and that’s why I enjoy writing books that centre around motherhood and family relationships. Being a mother is the most important role I’ve taken on in life and I’m still learning.

In spite of the tears, you’ll be pleased to know I did enjoy the evening although with so many people there it was impossible to spend as much time as I would have liked with everyone. Thank you (again) to everyone who came to the book launch and a special thanks to Kim, Martha and the rest of the team at HarperCollins for making publication day a day to remember.

A Time to Pause

November is a difficult time for me, a time when my mind draws me back to the past.  I’m reminded of all the reasons my life, my perspective and my priorities have changed so much in the last six years but mostly I’m reminded of the little man who went through such awful things and who taught me so much.  My son Nathan.

But even as I stand still and reflect, the world doesn’t stop with me.  Everything moves on and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I haven’t moved on from the death of my son, I’m not ‘over it,’ but I have accepted that life has continued and that I’ve been swept along with the flow of time.  So as I stood still for a little while this month, life has continued at a pace and with a deep breath I’m back in the present catching up with all my author duties.

That oh-so important contract for books three and four has now been signed although there was a little surprise in there for me.  As well as two new books, HarperCollins would like me to write two short stories.  Gulp!  It’s most definitely a new challenge and after the initial shock I’m starting to quite like the idea of working on something that should take shape much more quickly than the year-long process of finishing a full length manuscript.

So what else is new…the dates for publication have so far been confirmed as 14th March 2013 in the UK for Another Way to Fall and 12th February 2013 in the US for Yesterday’s Sun.  I’m also thrilled that along with Yesterday’s Sun, Another Way to Fall is also going to be published in Germany.

As I write this I’m on my way home after another trip to London where yesterday I met my new editor Kim Young who’s covering maternity leave for Sarah and to top the day I was invited to the Harper Fiction Christmas Party at the Ivy.  I had an absolutely lovely time and it was really good to get to know more of the team at HarperCollins as well as meeting some pretty fab authors too.  Writing can be quite a solitary profession so thank you to Harper for arranging this festive group hug!

And now I take another deep breath…I’m looking forward to another exciting year knowing full well how privileged I am to have good friends and family around me who help me look to the future without ever losing sight of the past.

Why have I got three and a half books spinning around in my head?

I had thought, rather naively I admit, that writing novels would be a fairly linear process…you write one book, finish that and then onto the next. And if it wasn’t for that wonderful first book deal which is a writer’s dream, I might still be under that illusion.

So here’s how it really happens or at least this is how it happens for me…

My first book, Yesterday’s Sun went through a fair few rewrites but by the summer of 2011while the manuscript was going through the finer detail of copyediting and proof-reads, I knew I had to make a start on the second book. I already had a synopsis which had been agreed with my editor Sarah Ritherdon and my agent Luigi Bonomi so I set to work. Yesterday’s Sun was put to the back of my mind and Another Way to Fall began to take shape.

Early in 2012, Yesterday’s Sun was published so even though I was busily working on my first rewrite of Another Way to Fall, I was now being asked lots and lots about Yesterday’s Sun as part of its promotion. It was an amazing time but eventually things quietened down and by late spring Yesterday’s Sun was on the shelf and Another Way to Fall had gone through a second rewrite which my editor Sarah loved…so I was ready to start on Book 3 which has the working title The Bench.

Just when I thought I only had one book to concentrate on, I heard from Harper in the US who are going to publish an edited version of Yesterday’s Sun for an American audience, so there was more copyediting to go through. Fortunately not much but enough to distract me temporarily from The Bench.

It’s now August and at last the very first draft of The Bench is finished and I can breathe a sigh of relief. Writing isn’t my day job – I work fulltime in local government – so for the first time in a long time I was looking forward to having a weekend or two of pure leisure. What did I used to do with all of that free time? At the back of my mind I know I need to go right back to the beginning of The Bench soon as I’ve only finished a very rough draft but at least I have a complete story and I can mull over some ideas in the meantime. I might even have time to think up some ideas for future books….

I’m still planning what to do when what happens? My weekends (plural) turn into one singular Saturday where I treat myself to a trip to my mum’s caravan in North Wales but I’m already thinking about the emails I’ve just received. Yesterday’s Sun has thrown up a few queries during the proof read in the US that need addressing, Another Way to Fall is back from the copyeditor and I’ve got three weeks to turn it around and The Bench is still demanding my attention.

My head is spinning but I’m really not complaining, I’m loving it. I know how very fortunate I am to be in this position and that’s not something I’ve been able to say in a very long time. I have the publication of Another Way to Fall to look forward to early in 2013, not to mention the publication of Yesterday’s Sun in the US in February by which time The Bench should be coming together and I will need to start thinking about Book 4.

I’ve just remembered what I used to do in my free time…in 2010 I ran the London Marathon and the months of training left no room for anything else…yes I think I prefer the writing!

So How Did I Get Published?

I suppose it all began with that first spark of an idea, the one that led me to developing the storyline for Yesterday’s Sun and oh how I wish I could remember it in perfect detail! All I have is a vague recollection that I had been walking through Liverpool city centre when I started thinking about time travel…as you do…and to be honest, I spend lots of time toying with ideas for my writing and most are completely forgettable but this one persisted. I couldn’t help thinking about what it would be like for me to go back in time and change events so that my son would have survived his battle against cancer or even just to have the chance to hold him again. Yesterday’s Sun allowed my heroine to do the one thing that I couldn’t and the more the ideas began to form in my mind, the more I became determined to get to that scene where Holly could scream at the world: ‘Take me, not my child!’

I started writing Yesterday’s Sun in May 2010 and by November I was ready to face the daunting task of convincing someone to publish my book. I knew I had to find an agent first as publishers rarely take on authors directly so I looked in the Artists and Writers Yearbook and picked three that represented my particular genre and followed their submission guidelines. I didn’t hold out much hope, I don’t think anyone does if you look at the odds of being able to convince an agent to take you on, so while I waited for responses, I was already listing the other agents I’d try next. I was stunned, amazed and beyond excited when Luigi Bonomi took an interest in the manuscript but he suggested some pretty major changes before he’d commit. I would have been mad to ignore the advice of a highly regarded literary agent so Christmas was cancelled and I set about the rewrite. By February 2011 I had another version ready and this time Luigi loved it. My manuscript was ready to be sent to the publishers and essentially my work was over. It was all down to Luigi now and for the most part all I had to do was wait for that call. I might not clearly remember the moment I had the idea for Yesterday’s Sun but I do remember that call from Luigi telling me I had a two book deal with HarperCollins. I was crying when I phoned my daughter to tell her and she actually thought I’d had some bad news.

I now had not only an agent but an absolutely lovely editor, Sarah Ritherdon but of course that meant that more rewrites were in store and it was probably autumn by the time the editing was complete. The original publication date was April 2012 but then I had another one of those never to be forgotten phone calls. I was walking down Matthew Street in Liverpool when Sarah phoned to say that Yesterday’s Sun had been selected for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club and I had to sit down on a doorstep to take it all in. It wasn’t all good news though…I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until the official launch in January 2012 and it was still only October but who was I to complain?!!

The week that Yesterday’s Sun was published was surreal. I went down to London the day before to be interviewed by Richard and Judy and the next day…publication day…I was back in the office doing my day job. OK I was surrounded by flowers, balloons and banners from my work mates but it was still back to normality, doing the job I’ve done for the last twenty five years and trying to adjust to my new double life.