I have lost count of the number of stories I have started over the years but my real breakthrough
came when I actually finished one. That would have been in about 2005. It was a romance about
cricket (one of my passions) and I don’t suppose I did really finish the book; I kept on scribbling
until it was a trilogy and completely unpublishable. But one thing I do know; by the end I was a
much better writer.
Next came another romance, this time with a little bit of mystery sprinkled into it. I had some
nice rejection letters telling me I wrote well but there wasn’t a market for the story. Then, in
early 2009, I started The Cheesemaker’s House. I changed to writing in the first person and it
felt different – it felt as though I had found my voice.
It’s one thing believing you’ve written something good but quite another having someone other
than your mother and your friends thinking so too. In May 2011 The Alan Titchmarsh Show
announced a competition to find a new author – a People’s Novelist – and my mother persuaded
me to enter. I did, and then I put it to the back of my mind and got on with my next writing
To my absolute amazement the book was shortlisted and I travelled to London to record the
suspense & crime heat of the competition. The Alan Titchmarsh team – and the man himself –
were fantastic and made all four contestants feel very comfortable. We were the first of four
heats and I was first up. We had rehearsed, but the AT Show is filmed ‘as live’ in front of a
studio audience so there were no opportunities for retakes. Waiting behind the chipboard
backdrop to make my entrance I was terrified but comforted myself this wasn’t the X Factor
so the judges would be nice to us. And they were – very complimentary about The Cheesemaker’s
House – and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I sat on an enormous fake book at the side of the stage while the others took their turn. To my
surprise the judges’ comments were not so positive and for the first time I thought ‘I’m in with
a chance’. It was still the longest few seconds of my life as we waited for the announcement. I
was through to the final. I was sworn to secrecy so could tell only my husband and my mother –
that was tough.
So, two weeks later I went back to London. This time all of us were winners and within a hair’s
breadth of a publishing contract. We all had to read an excerpt from our novels and by the end
of the rehearsal I knew who had won – one writer was streets ahead of the rest of us. I sent a text
to my husband with Madeleine Reiss’s name.
Even though I didn’t win I was lucky enough to stay in touch with one of the judges, Sophie
Hannah. Off camera she told me that although my book had a great deal of potential it was also
very unpolished and needed a great deal more work. Up until that point I had been completely untutored as a writer so I took myself off to Winchester Writers' Festival to learn how to put a novel together properly. It took me over a year to be sure I had a product I would be proud for other people to read.
By that time the world of the independent author was changing and attending a self publishing conference organised by The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook reassured me that going it alone would not preclude me from obtaining an agent and mainstream publishing deal at a later date. At the same conference I came across Matador and as well as being selective about the books they take they struck me as a very professional and experienced organisation.
The Cheesemaker’s House appeared in September 2013 and continues to be really well received by book bloggers and readers and at the time of writing has sold over 2,000 copies. Just as important is its popularity in libraries; it isn’t in very many of them but achieved almost 800 loans in just the first six months of 2014. The Faerie Tree followed in March 2015 and was promptly listed in The Bookseller's Indie Author selection and is already challenging The Cheesemaker’s House in terms of ebook sales. At about the same time The Cheesemaker's House won an Independent Novel Award organised by writing charity Words for the Wounded and as a result I was signed by Felicity Trew of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency.
I have recently moved to Cornwall with the intention of having a great time – and focusing more on my writing.
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