And a passion for writing of course, are essential when you dream of being a published novelist, and I should know… I’ve practically spent my whole life pursuing the dream.
There I was sitting at the kitchen table, scoffing a Flake and reading about TOWIE people on the Daily Mail website, like you do when you’re bored and can’t be arsed to actually do something productive. Some people call it ‘displacement activity’, I call it wasting time, and I’m the self appointed queen of wasting time.
Have I ever told you about the time I wasted well over twenty minutes sniffing the potted hyacinth’s on my desk? It was a tricky writing day, didn’t know what was going to happen next, was having one of those “it’s all crap anyway, so what does it matter” moments, but anyway, twenty whole minutes… I bet Jackie doesn’t do that. No, she probably has someone to sniff her hyacinths for her, I can’t imagine Lucky Santangelo hanging around waiting for her author to write the next bit.
Anyway, back to the kitchen table, my laptop pinged to signify the arrival of a new email, and there it was, the words I’ve fantasised about right back from those days as a little girl, listening to the Archers, then writing a kids version and recording it on my granddad’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder, complete with imaginative sound effects. Did you know that rubbing a crisp packet between your palms creates a wonderful footsteps-on-a–gravel-drive like sound? Truefact.
And this is what the email said –
Just to let you know that we have been given the all clear, so I’ll be coming to you with an offer before the end of the week! Everyone really likes the proposal and are very excited…
SCREAM. Cue air guitar, gin, a rodeo of topless cowboys, Anya Hindmarch begging me to accept her entire Spring/Summer collection of handbags as a gift and quite possibly turning Tom Ford, oh yes, remember I’d been imagining this moment for donkeys. But no, none of these things happened; instead I went in to QT’s bedroom, scooped up her dirty clothes and put them in the washing machine. I then went in to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. It was pouring the milk in that did it, the very moment the contents of that email sunk in, the moment I realised. And that was the moment I cried.
And not graceful Lady tears like Meryl during an Oscar acceptance speech, no, these were big, gulping, snivelling sobs for those years of writing in secret before I got the courage to show anyone and then worrying if it would ever come to something. Would I ever get to hold my book in my hands? The years of yearning to write all day aswell as all night, but instead, having to commute in to London to sit at a desk and muster up a modicum of enthusiasm for stuff like “key performance indicators”, or being told to discipline someone for sending their husband an email cartoon of Snow White snogging a dwarf… honestly, the fuss those directors made about that, especially the finance director with his penchant for perusing the online Hooters calendar, I shit you not.
After several years of trying to get published as a novelist, completing two novels, starting several more, signing with two agents, parting with two agents and generally doing all those things that aspiring novelists do for years and years and years … it happened. I got me a three book deal with HarperCollins. A series, with the first novel to be published early next year, which is handy as I‘ve already written it, just need to get on and write the second one now, deadline 1st December! Eek, and there you have it folks… the worry starts all over again.
What if it’s a pile of pony? What if I don’t meet the deadline? What if the world stops spinning? What if my arms get savaged by wolves and I end up having to tap the keyboard with a stick sellotaped to my head because I’ve spent the advance and can’t afford to give it back?
Anyway, I’m exhausting myself now with all this worry, so I’ll go, but thank you, I feel I should say that as so many people have helped me to get this far.
One last thing… I do love a picture, and I would have shown you one of the actual contract, but there are probably special laws about that kind of thing, so here’s one of Poundland instead. Particularly apt as my dear friend Caroline once said to me, ‘so what are you going to do instead then, get a job in Poundland?’ That was after yet another one of my “that’s it, I’m giving up writing” rants. Not that there’s anything wrong with working in Poundland, I’m just glad I didn’t give up writing, because if I had then I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to have realised my dream.