This week I signed a deal with the amazing Bloodhound Books for my first standalone thriller, No Place Like Home. And though it will be my fifth published novel, it still feels like a big deal. In fact, it might just be the biggest deal.
My previous novels were a crime series, and the first one did pretty well (not Harry Potter well, but I was happy). Then the second and third installments… well, they didn’t do so well. So, just after the release of my third book, I parted ways with my publisher. It wasn’t a good fit and I didn’t feel too bad about it. I had the fourth book, Murder in Slow Motion, ready to go, as well as my first standalone, No Place Like Home. I also had an agent to shop them around for me.
But then I was told that because books two and three were deemed failures no one was going to publish Murder in Slow Motion. So I started thinking about self-publishing while submitting the standalone to traditional publishers. Except… after a couple of rejections, my agent seemed to lose heart. I couldn’t understand it. He told me he thought the book was great, yet, after two publishers said no, he no longer wanted to send it out.
As a writer you get used to rejection and though I’m afraid of many things, rejection isn’t one of them. But when your agent is, you have a problem. So, after a lot of thinking, I decided to walk away. It was an incredibly hard decision, partly because (as we all know) getting an agent in the first place is really hard, but more importantly, because I considered him a friend as well as a colleague.
So there I was, no publisher, no agent, and increasingly no confidence. I believed no one would publish either novel and buried myself in working on an epic historical novel (a project that started life as a screenplay at LSF) instead, blissfully hiding from the realities of the outside world. But after a while, I knew I had to do something – if not to pay the bills (kind of important), then for my own sanity (even more important). I started wondering if writing was still what I wanted to do with my life or if I’d be happier doing something else. I even went as far as taking several career tests, but they all came back with one answer . Apparently the career I’m most suited to is Writer. (Doh!)
So I decided to self publish Murder in Slow Motion, never even questioning the advice I’d been given that no one else would do it for me. The process was frustrating but I’m glad I did it. Even if it turns out to be another “failure”, it’s still an achievement to me. Spurred on by this, I decided to send out No Place Like Home, the book my agent lost faith in. A couple of weeks later I ended up with two offers from publishers, ultimately choosing to sign with Bloodhound Books.
But what does this have to do with the LSF? Let me explain…
In 2016 I was selected for Talent Campus 2.0. (If you’re not aware of Talent Campus you should check out all the glowing reports elsewhere on the blog.) Thanks to Chris Jones and his team, not only does TC help with the actual writing and pitching, the networking and confidence, they also introduce you to a whole bunch of amazing people who will push, support and cheerlead you long after Talent Campus is over.
One of the things that really helped me, especially when I felt like giving in, was being inspired by those people. To name just a few – Kim Wheeler killing it with her short film In Vino Veritas; David Poole rocking it by directing music videos and exhibiting his art; not to mention the various awards won, shortlists made, and agents signed. Seeing their posts makes me want to keep going. We all struggle, no matter what stage of our career we’re at, but in the end it’s down to us to believe we can succeed. Having a support system just makes it a little easier, and for me a lot of that came from another Talent Camper whose emails over the last year gave me the biggest push of all. Every email she sent told me of another competition she was entering, another idea she was developing, another deadline she was meeting. So what was my excuse? So, I will leave you with the immortal words of the amazing Tazbir Malle – “Just fucking do it.”