Over coffee and cake the other day, my publicity agent (aka best friend Jane) asked me what it felt like to finally be a published writer. “Not a lot different,” I told her. “A bit like having a birthday really. First, there’s the initial excitement over the fuss being made about you, the congratulations and hugs and kisses, the sense of relief that you’ve reached another milestone in one piece, then that deflated feeling when everyone’s left and you realise inside, you are the same person, just a day older.” But afterwards, giving the question further thought, I realised I do feel different, and began to analyse why.
Every Step of the Way had been ten years in the making. From the initial seeds of an idea to eventually seeing it on Amazon and physically in someone’s hands. It took about a year to write, the first three chapters in about three weeks but then came a period of intensive research when I learned so much fascinating stuff about the era the book is set in – the 1950s – to the extent the research overtook any writing. But I was on a deadline, a perceived one, of my own making, until in September 2004, it was finished. Or so I thought. During the ensuing years, having gone through many false starts and hopes and squashed dreams, an award ceremony, agent, editor, proofreaders, the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, being told there’s no market for sagas, turned down by publishers, and everything else betwixt and between, it needed many rewrites and more edits, to the extent I was so sick of the sight of my characters, I wanted to drown them all in the River Thames never to see daylight again.
So you can perhaps understand the feeling I had that, after all this time, I was glad to see the end of it. Any excitement I had hoped to feel now it was out in the big wide world hadn’t materialised. What I felt was liberation because at long last, I was free. The book had reached maturity, guided and fed, pruned and nurtured every step of the way (pun intended!). The strings were at last cut, time to either flounder or be a runaway success (hope, hope, hope). But in its wake it had left nothing but self doubt. Not over the novel itself but whether it could have been better written for I knew that, if I wrote the story now, I would write it another way. This is due to the fact that in the last ten years I, too have matured as a writer, learnt the many lessons needed to write a good book. I now know the various pitfalls and how the market works.
So, Jane, in answer to your question: It feels different – because I am different to the person who wrote it all those years ago. I feel proud – because all the mishaps and ups and downs experienced in the intervening years have helped to shape it into the creature it has grown into. I am also proud of myself in that I didn’t let the dream go, I didn’t kill it, I didn’t give up on it. I feel elated at the prospect of seeing more people hold my book in their hands and knowing many have already downloaded it onto their Ereaders. And more importantly, I feel excited by the prospect of going through the pains of doing it all over again with the next. Hopefully that one won’t take another ten years to appear.
In short. It feels good!
Read extract from Every Step of the Way
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