Writing a novel was the easy bit. It was finding a publisher that nearly sent me off the rails….
Winning the Debut Dagger in 2005 was a watershed moment for me. Until then I had thought of writing as a hobby – I’d self-published my first novel (The James Version) but was still working as a Probation Officer. The Dagger gave me the confidence to resign and dedicate myself to writing full-time.
The day after the Dagger awards I signed with a top agent and the novel was going to be submitted to six major publishing houses. I thought I had made it…
But that would have been just too easy. The Woman Before Me didn’t get picked up by the major publishers. They worried that it was ‘not commercial enough’, and that it didn’t fit neatly enough into the ‘crime novel’ box. It went into the bottom drawer and I started to write my third novel, The Sacrificial Man (still posted on the site).
I joined authonomy when it first began, and receiving feedback from fellow authonomites gave me the confidence to keep going. Having my novels posted on the site has helped me develop as a writer and I made several friendships that extended beyond the forums.
A few of the writers on the site were already with Legend press and last summer one of them posted a thread about the upcoming Luke Bitmead Bursary. It seemed perfect for The Woman Before Me. The bursary aims to promote and publish a new writer each year, and was set up in memory of Luke Bitmead, a talented writer who sadly committed suicide.
I won the award last October. I cried through much of the ceremony, knowing that I would finally see my novel in print. (The second place winner and two runners-up are also authonomites.) A few days later I signed a publishing deal with Solidus Press for The Sacrificial Man.
So, after waiting nearly five years, I finally achieved my goal.
To be a writer you have to be tenacious and dogged – having a strong support network helps. If I had one piece of advice it would be this: don’t give up. You never know just how close you are to succeeding.
The Woman Before Me is now in print. It is a psychological thriller set in coastal Suffolk. It is about Rose Wilks, whose life is shattered when her newborn baby Luke is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her in hospital is Emma, who has just given birth to Joel and the two women become friends. Joel dies and Luke is thriving – then tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.
The novel starts with Rose having spent five years behind bars. She is just weeks away from release if she can convince probation officer Cate Austin to recommend parole.
As Cate is drawn into Rose’s story she begins to question everything she thought she knew about justice, love and obsession.
Good luck to all of you in getting that elusive publishing deal!