Cuckoo is out now!
2018 has been quite a year! It saw me securing my first ever publishing deal and the book launch of Cuckoo. The book was selected as a Fern Britton pick and within three weeks of its launch had nudged into the top 100 Kindle chart, hit the Bookseller Heatseekers chart and was on the shelves in Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda. It was a long-held dream that kind of overwhelmed me.
Now as I read the reviews and some of the lovely messages I've had, it's amazing to think people are reading and enjoying something I've worked so hard on. I'm incredibly grateful to my publisher, Avon and the blog reviewers and online support that I've had since the book came out.
But it's also been one of the most difficult years - two close family members have been / are very ill, and I broke both my legs in the summer. It's been a case of ploughing on, focussing on editing book 1, writing the first draft of book 2, helping my family however I can, juggling the "day" job (oral storytelling) and trying not to forget the next physio appointment. Though I am glad to report I am walking and driving now!
So in amongst the highs, a stark reminder of the fragility of life. What really matters. But it's also been a reminder to not let things drift, and if you have a dream, to make it a priority before life and time and "stuff" gets in the way.
I met a fellow writer who wanted to quiz me about how I got published, and at the end he said I must be very "determined". It was meant as a compliment of course, but it also felt negative - as if having an ambition comes at a cost, having to "push" through to achieve something. I'm very aware now of the nuances of words, the inherent prejudice of language and expectation. Someone else told me not to expect to progress as a professional writer, and I thought, if I give in to that, I might as well give up now. I "gave up" on writing very early in life for practical reasons. I've waited a long time to come back to it, having finally realised I just have to write. There's a lot of talk about diversity in literature, how to encourage writers of all backgrounds, but one of the biggest barriers, I suspect, is not prejudice, opportunity or even self-doubt (I have lots of that!), it's sheer economics.
The first rough draft of book 2 has gone to my editor and I now find myself actually contemplating a third book, mulling ideas, looking for that buzzy "concept" around which to build a story and which one to commit to that might interest a publisher. Writing a book is a massive commitment in so many ways. Book 2 is of course still in my head and I found it very hard to write - not because I couldn't do it, but because some of the themes were so emotional to think about. Taking a break is the usual advice, but I find it hard to let go once a story is in my head. In the end it's not determination or ambition or any kind of expectation that keeps me writing, it's the stories I want to tell, the voices that keep me awake at night and want to be heard, whether or not I do them justice. You can only try, right?
The New Year is always a time for reflection, new
beginnings and plans. Outside my window is grey and quiet, the boys are all asleep
(it is only 11am...), even the cats are comatose in their various favourite spots
around the house: the sofa, under my desk, under the laundry where the heating pipes warm
the carpet... Wherever you are, whatever you wish for, I hope 2019 brings you good luck and all the very best.
Some articles I have recently had published include:
Reading Twas the Night before Christmas for BBC Radio Derby on Christmas Eve (2 hrs 13 mins into the Donna Alos show).
Cuckoo has been listed as one of the Bookliterati blog Top Ten Reads of 2018.
Cuckoo is available now in the usual bookshops, supermarkets and online.
Photos: Book Launch at Waterstones, Derby, celebrating with my lovely previous workmates, Sharon, Coleen & Ali, gorgeous flowers from the team at Avon, being photographed for the Daily Mail (with photographer Ki Price), Cuckoo on the bookshelves of my local supermarket, article on oral storytelling in the Daily Mail, and the Fern Britton Picks book sticker.