Today I am mostly being…Amanda Brooke

At 9.48am, I board the London train at Lime Street Station, Liverpool.  I had to drive through torrential rain to get here but the sun is out now and I’m scanning the skies.  No rainbows.  Normally at this time of day I’d be at my desk at work but as the train pulls out of the station, I’m leaving my normal life behind me, for a while at least.  Today I’m not in the office where I’ve worked for the same employer for the last twenty seven years, I’m an author off to meet my agent and my editor for lunch in Chelsea.   I signed the first book deal almost eighteen months ago and my first book was published six months ago but being an author is still new to me and I’m having one of those moments where I have to pinch myself.  I suppose it’s a good thing that I write under a different name, it gives me a clear separation between my normal life and my ‘alter ego’.  So yes, today I am mostly being Amanda Brooke.

With two lives to lead, it’s busy fitting everything in so even on a two hour train journey I need to make the most of my time and so I set to work writing this blog.  Just as I reach London the sun is shining when my friend Karen texts me to say there’s a rainbow over Liverpool.  Rainbows have a strong significance in my life.  I searched for rainbows after my son died, convinced it would be a sign from him to let me know that he was alright.  The first arrived one week after I lost him, to the exact minute in fact, just as I was struggling to work out how I was ever going survive without him.  The next rainbow arrived the following day at his funeral just as I was sitting in the funeral car telling my sister about the one I’d seen the day before and there have been a fair few since then.  So if nothing else, the rainbow in Liverpool reminds me that this journey I’m on started with Nathan and he’s never far from my mind.

A quick race across London and I arrive on time for lunch with Luigi and Sarah.  I am most definitely Amanda Brooke now and the food is good and the company even better.  The news is that Another Way to Fall is going into production so it won’t be long before it stops looking like a Word document and more like a book.  Of course that also means that the time for playing around with it is over, there will only be minor changes from now on.  Sarah tells me she hasn’t shared it widely yet but those who have read the manuscript have cried but that doesn’t surprise me.  I read through it from start to finish after the copyedit and it made me cry too.  She also tells me that they’re planning to publish in February which is the same month that Yesterday’s Sun is being published in the US so it’s going to be a busy month!  There are no firm decisions on the front cover for Another Way to Fall yet but I can’t wait to see it as a proper book.

We talk a little about book three which I’ve now handed over to both Luigi and Sarah.  Its working title is The Bench but no-one is under any illusions that it will stay that way – I need to think up a proper title for it.  I might muse over that little problem on the way home on the train.  Of course the worst and best news is that Sarah is pregnant (very pregnant!)  so after a year and a half of holding my hand, she’s leaving me.  But of course I’m thrilled for her and she assures me and Luigi that I’m in safe hands with her chosen replacement Kim who is coming over to HarperCollins to cover her maternity leave.  There’ll be a lot of work to do while she’s away and Sarah and Luigi have plenty of ideas of how to promote the new book and me, ‘the author.’  I’m glad I’ve spent the wet and miserable summer writing, it should give me enough free time to put more effort into all the other work that comes with being an author in the coming months.

Lunch is long but over too soon and I’ve got the rest of the afternoon to myself.  Slowly but surely, I stop being Amanda Brooke.  I’m in Oxford Street shopping, calling in at Forever 21 which is a must when I’m in London with my daughter but today it’s only window shopping.  Eventually, I find myself on the train home.  It’s late and I won’t get home until ten so am in no mood for the two businessmen sitting opposite me who are having a very loud conversation that they really should be having in private.  I suspect their ruthless character assassinations of their colleagues are annoying the whole carriage.  I can’t concentrate on anything else, especially not titles for The Bench but perhaps one day I will exact my revenge…I wonder if I can use these two obnoxious characters in a future project.  I smile, I haven’t stopped being Amanda Brooke quite yet.

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!