When the tickets arrived for the Festival of Romance in Bedford last year, there was no suspicion that the event would be the start of a whole new chapter of my life and that I’d soon be well on the way to calling myself a Real Writer. I’d entered the Piatkus Entice competition as soon as the booking had gone through, but then somehow managed to completely forget about it. On the night of the gala dinner and awards, I put on my very-posh-and-floaty frock, bought specially for the occasion from Monsoon. The shop lady had been very interested in the occasion it was meant for and listened to me burbling about having entered the New Writers’ awards – again, no thoughts of the bigger picture. Selective amnesia? Advancing age? Who knows? So that was why, at the moment of the big announcement all about the contract from Piatkus Entice, the selected book and the lucky winner, I was half way through a very nice bread roll and a glass of wine, philosophically not really listening after the New Writers’ award had come and gone.
My neighbour, Debs, nudged me hard, nearly causing a nasty choking incident (it could have all been over before it had properly begun). ‘It’s you!’ she hissed, ‘Go on, get up there . . . ’ Swallowing the bread as fast as I could and taking a huge gulp of wine, I saw that everyone was looking at our table and clapping, and my fellow Romaniacs were on their feet cheering and making strange whooping noises.
The presentation was a blur – a certificate, flowers, photographs. My smile started and wouldn’t go away. I woke up several times that night and had to put the light on to re-read the lovely letter from the editor. Yes, it had definitely happened. My very own book was going to be out on Kindle on August 1st. The icing on the cake was signing with the Kate Nash Literary Agency shortly afterwards, an unexpected bonus.
The editing process started in January, and was an eye opener in many ways. Clear, easy to follow pointers came regularly by email, and although it felt a bit like climbing Everest in flip flops to start with, every time changes were submitted the feedback was positive. Sometimes we wrangled about the importance of the odd character here and there but no blood was lost and progress was made. It began to seem possible that this book would be published. Scary. Previous to this my published work had been in magazines/newspaper articles. I’d written and produced a whole host of plays for children but this was the first full length novel to see light of day.
The next months saw copy edits, line edits and choosing the cover follow each other in quick succession. I launched a website, ordered promotional material to go in the goody bags at the RNA conference and finally, Sweet Proposal was finished. Only the launch to go now – onwards and upwards . . .