Who Loves Book Clubs?

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a few book clubs in the last six months and the first thing I asked myself was…where have all these book clubs been hiding??  I think the answer is fairly obvious, they’ve been around forever, I’ve just been embarrassingly ignorant of them.  I could say I’ve been too busy writing to read but that’s no excuse so… shame on me!

OK there are the big ones that even I couldn’t miss and of course the Richard and Judy Book Club is up there with the biggest and I certainly owe an awful lot to them for selecting my first book for their Spring 2012 list.  But it’s the smaller book clubs that we should be shouting about.  The independent ones that have been brought to life because a community, a company or simply a group of friends decided meeting up regularly to talke about books they’ve read and to share their views over the odd glass of wine wasn’t such a bad idea.  It’s easy to skim through a book and then go onto the next without really stopping to think about what you’ve just read.  And of course by listening to other people, you get a different perspective, no two people will read the same book and be moved, intrigued, excited in the same way.

I’ve visited a few book clubs that are run by groups of friends, where everyone takes it in turns to host the evening.  I don’t think it’s just a good thing because it’s encouraging people to read and maybe broaden their horizons on what they read…it’s also a good excuse to set aside time on a regular basis to meet up and catch up…and talk about books of course.

I was also  invited along to Merseytravel who had encouraged their staff to join in the Six Book Challenge and it was great to see so many people being encouraged to read more and also as part of their scheme, to write too so maybe one year they’ll be reading a book from a homegrown author.

My latest foray into book clubs was at the Neighbourhood Cafe in Childwall, Liverpool.  It’s run by Lynne Collins and it has everything that a book club should have.  A warm and welcoming atmosphere, great food and hospitality and because it’s open to anyone, you get a real mix of people.  I went along to talk about Yesterday’s Sun and there were plenty of questions that really got me thinking and my mind was still buzzing when I got home, in fact I couldn’t sleep.  So now I know what I’ve been missing out on I’d love to go back there as a reader rather than a visiting author, I loved it!

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.