You wouldn't think that simply stepping out of a nice shiny black front door, with a lion's head knob, in Bloomsbury could be so significant, would you? Well, for me it is like the nicest thing I could possibly imagine - it is the dream I used to help myself go to sleep, the story I told in my head. Like little girls dream of a big white dress and a wedding - with often disastrous results for their future happiness - I was always banging on a door market 'Books'. My life has been a mad scramble to keep a roof over our heads and my children in clean clothes - so going out and working and working for other people. Pouring out my creativity in the service of others for a pay cheque or a day rate - for which, don't worry, I am heartily grateful and there's lots and lots of creativity left over for my own use.
What happened was this. I have always written bits of fiction - short stories published in university magazine (heavily influenced by Raold Dahl's thrillers with a twist (one of which was going to be read on Radio 4 - called Burglar Repellent); or strange meandering love stories - an attempted Mills & Boone (Tuscan Torment by Mavis Flame - rejected on the grounds it didn't reach the high standard expected by their readers!). In 1993, my mother died - it was devastating. You don't know how you get through it, but you do. In order to make a kind of retreat, I went to the Arvon Foundation for a refreshing, creative break.
The two tutors were Beryl Bainbridge (extremely encouraging) and Nicholas Shakespeare (who told me I had verbal diarrohoea). I wrote and wrote and wrote, and felt so inspired that I wrote a novel in five weeks afterwards (the time determined by the gap between two publishing contracts - I think features writer for Slimming magazine and deputy for the newly launched Pregnancy magazine). I pounded it out on an electronic word processor, chucked it on the floor, rearranged it a bit, then pinned each chapter together with a paper clip.
I had no idea what to do next, but bumped into the step-father of an old friend who offered to read it as he had recently moved from publishing to being an agent. Well, from the timing of this post, you will understand that that was a false dawn. So dispiriting that after a few rejection letters, I just abandoned the whole thing and went back to magazines (Country Living, SHE, Vogue), The Times, and then the internet (ivillage.co.uk, AOL, Conde Net UK).
While at SHE I was editing a rather thin piece about publishing your own novel, and the PR for self-publishing company Authorhouse asked me if I had a manuscript so I could see how the whole thing worked. Luckily, I had not lost the electronic version - on old fashioned floppy discs - so I got this converted to a more modern format and popped it on Authorhouse. As soon as the galleys came back, I realised it needed a rewrite. That was 2005. I did bits here and there when I had time. Did a cover I loved, did blurb etc. Found out a bit about publishing that was hugely interesting but not going anywhere.
Until I met my publisher while doing a stint at Tatler. The result was at the beginning of this year I spent a couple of hours discussing that novel, and it all began to happen, and I am now thinking about that moment when I turned to congratulate the publishers on their new ventures (they are relaunching) and they in turn congratulated me on mine. And I tripped off down the steps in a broad Bloomsbury street - literally my dream come true (forgive the cliche!).
Causes Josa Young Supports
Save the Children
The Children's Society