As much as writers are meant to avoid adjectives, the past eight months have seen me describe moments as “epic”, “exciting” and “awesome” on a regular basis. Why? Because my debut novel is getting published in the autumn. I thought now would be a good place to pause and reflect on some of those moments and the adjectives.
A request for a full manuscript
Cue instant anxiety. And disbelief. And more anxiety. This was even more so for me because the publisher who requested the full manuscript of Fallible Justice specifically said no to fantasy, crime and thrillers on her website, and there I was, sending her a paranormal crime novel. But beneath the realism and the worry was a little voice whispering, “What if?”. I listened and then I listened some more, all the while obsessively checking my emails.
When the email from Louise came saying she’d love to publish my book, I shrieked out loud in a cookery shop. What made the moment even more special was that my mum and niece had arrived in England for a holiday the day before, and they were right there with me. So we celebrated even before I’d replied to Louise saying yes (YES!!!), and the celebrations continued throughout the week they were here. It felt completely surreal sitting in a department store in central London reading the draft contract while my niece shopped to her heart’s content. Or her helping me set up my Instagram and Twitter accounts, all the while sighing at how technologically challenged I was (I’d like to think I’m not that bad, but in comparison to a 14-year old, fair point).
Before Louise and I signed the contracts, we met up for coffee and brownies. Cue abject terror while I was waiting for her outside the café. But she turned out be not just real (not that I ever really doubted that, honest), but also fun and interesting and super excited about my novel. Cue more nerves. It was great fun chatting with her about the Wilde Investigations series, the publication process and books in general. When we parted ways, she asked if I still wanted to sign a contract with her. Trick question, right? And no two guesses about what my answer was.
By this stage, you’d think I’d got used to the idea that I was going to be a published author, but not so much. Opening the envelope to reveal the publishing contract felt unreal. Yet, it was real and it was happening and all I had to do was sign my name on the dotted line. Actually, I’m not sure the line was dotted, but you get the picture. I did and sent the contract back and then we shouted the news from the rooftops. The reaction both on social media and from my friends was wonderful, and I was certain that was the best feeling in the world. Little did I know how wrong I could be.
I recently wrote a blog post about my experience of working through the structural and line edits for Fallible Justice (you can find it here). My expectation was that it would be horribly painful and I’d have to kill every one of my precious darlings and the book would be unrecognisable after the edits. But that’s not what happened. Did I do a lot of revisions? Yes. Did we tweak things line by line? Absolutely. But it stayed the same story, only better and shinier and more polished. I raced through the edits both times because I had such fun seeing how I could improve the book with the comments I’d received. What could be more awesome than that, plus I learnt a great deal in the process!
While Louise and I were busy editing the book, Jennie Rawlings of Serifim had been hard at work on the cover. And when I received the draft, what a cover it was! I’d had a few ideas of what it could look like, but Jennie came up with something completely different and completely right. It was love at first sight, and talk about an eye-catching cover. We’ve since had postcards printed of the same design, and they make for a fabulous marketing tool. And did I mention how stunning the cover is?
The typeset novel
Did I think seeing the cover was the best feeling in the world? It was nothing compared to receiving a typeset copy of the novel in the post. Holding the book in my hands, looking that the title page and seeing my words in the proper format, having the dedication and the acknowledgements there on paper directed my thoughts back over the past months. I recalled not just the publication journey, but what came before it. The months spent writing the Fallible Justice with no concrete prospects of ever seeing it in print, my hopes fuelling me through the good and the bad. The self-doubt, the exhaustion, the temptation to give up because writing the novel was too hard. The joy of meeting new characters, learning who they were and how they lived their lives, the excitement of sharing something of those characters with my friends. The encouragement I received from people around me. It all, the good as well as the bad, lead me to that moment of holding my book in my hands. Appreciating all that left me quite emotional.
If I thought holding the typeset novel in my hand was exciting, it was again eclipsed by Louise emailing me to say that Fallible Justice was set up on her website’s bookshop (you can find it here) and was available for pre-order. After dealing with the practicalities of shouting about this from the rooftops, I took a moment to simply stare at the pre-order page and marvel at what it symbolised. My book was no longer something that was going to get published. Now, Fallible Justice was on sale. Sure, we have a great deal of work still ahead of us, but my book is on sale and several friends have already placed their orders. Once again, it was quite an emotional moment for me.
But the best feeling of them all? My first reader, who I’ve looked up to and admired for years and who taught me most of what I know about writing, emailing me the other day to say how proud of me he is. I’m not usually one to accept a compliment without a fight, but this one I not only heard but savoured.
So, if you are a writer just starting out, or you’re not sure whether you’ll ever finish that first draft, or the edits seem insurmountable, or the rejections feel endless, don’t give up. There are many, many great adjectives in your future. And the path to get there is going to be epic.