Verdict on the Harrogate crime festival? Guilty…(of rather too much fun!)
OK, I admit it, m’lord. I ate carbs. I drank fizz and wine and Pimms. I shamelessly fangirled authors I really admire – Ian Rankin and Rowan Coleman, I’m talking about you – and I had, in short… the time of my life.
I seriously can’t believe I was so nervous about attending my first Harrogate Crime Festival (see earlier blog for typical author paranoia). Everyone had told me that I would love it but this is a new genre for me, so I was genuinely nervous.
But the wobbles? Well, they didn’t last long, folks. For, isn’t fate a funny ol' thing…
I arrived, just a little over-awed, drinking coffee on my tod in one of the tents when I struck up a lovely conversation with another Harrogate newbie. We had such a warm and wonderful chat that all my nerves disappeared. Poof. Gone. And how about this for serendipity?! I confessed that getting a picture with the lovely Ian Rankin was on my wishlist. I had booked to attend his talk and Q&A session but confided I would probably be way too shy to approach him when she smiled and said she happened to know he wouldn't mind at all...
Fast forward and once the lovely Ian had finished his talk and dealt with his LONG book-signing queue, I managed to get this super picture.
Just goes to show that you really never know how things will turn out…
I also had gorgeous fellow authors and Harrogate regulars Caroline Mitchell and Mel Sherratt to show me around. Thanks so much, lovely ladies!
There was Pimms with my agent, dinner with my new publisher Thomas and Mercer. Lots of writer chat with all manner of authors - oh and lots of sunshine, too, despite the iffy forecast.
Along the way I also remembered to mention my new book I Am Watching You to a few people.
And, of course, I went to Betty’s famous tea rooms.
Agency drinks with the fab Madeleine Milburn team...
Hello Rowan Coleman!
I am staring at a pile of clothes alongside a suitcase, worrying that I am a fraud.
I wonder if this ever stops as a writer; this feeling that you are going to be found out. That the book deals and the foreign rights and all the lovely things readers say about your writing are suddenly going to disappear and you will wake up to find Bobby Ewing in the shower…
Repeat after me, Teresa. You are a writer of psychological suspense. A fab two-book deal with Thomas and Mercer says that you are. A lovely Greek publisher has just bought the first foreign rights (before the debut’s even out!) so they clearly think you are, too.
So – why the wobble?
Part of the issue here is I write in two genres. I’ve already published two literary women’s books – sold in six languages – but my debut psychological suspense I AM WATCHING YOU is out on Oct 1.
I am packing to attend the Harrogate Crime Festival for the first time, so I am suddenly suffering newbie paranoia - panicking that I won't fit in; that I don't know many people and (don't laugh) that I don’t read enough crime…
But hang on. A quick check on my kindle and my bookshelves. OK, I do read a lot of psychological crime, actually. Stacks, come to think of it. ( Gawd….you don’t want to know how much I spend on books!!) But the point is I don’t read crime exclusively which I hope won't make me a Harrogate lightweight. And I love all sorts of crime and thrillers, commercial and literary – from the popular big names to the edgy. On my shelves The Girl on the Train, The Widow, Appletree Yard and I let you Go sit very happily alongside The Dinner (Herman Koch…do read it) and Engleby (favourite book) and This is How and His Bloody Project (wonderful!) etc etc…
I gave a talk recently about my new book at a literary event – explaining that I have found it entirely natural and not at all odd to write in two genres as an author, just as I did as a TV news presenter and journalist for decades.
Bad things happening to good people….sometimes natural disaster. Sometimes crime.
Across both genres - both as a writer and a reader - I am always mostly interested in the people. The ripples. The impact. Never knowing quite how people will react; who will be strong and courageous and who will surprise you.
So deep breath, Teresa, and back to the packing. It may rain which is now worrying me. I was banking on pretty T shirts. Now? Not so sure…
The truth is I am as nervous as I am super excited – so if you are a Harrogate Crime Festival regular and you spy me wandering about, spotting celebrities and wondering if I dare ask for a selfie, please say hello. (Val McDermid, Clare Mackintosh and Ian Rankin, be warned...I may stalk.)
I’m new. I’m buzzing and in awe and feeling very, very lucky to be here…
Bobby Ewing, be damned.
Turns out I am a crime writer. A bit nervous, sure, but loud and proud and absolutely loving it so far!
I have been so thrilled with the reaction to the cover of my new psychological suspense so I thought I'd jot a few notes on how we got here. Title and design-wise, I mean.
When I wrote the first draft of this novel, it had a different working title. It wasn't quite right and I knew that from the off. I was thrilled when my literary agent's first reaction to the book was 'Wow!' but not at all surprised that she added....'but it will need a new title, Teresa'!
No pressure then...
Titles and covers are so very important to the success of a book so while I did some revisions ahead of submission, I played with various title options and it was at the eleventh hour that I suddenly came up with this one.
It fits the book perfectly so I was delighted when not only my agency loved it but my new publisher (Thomas and Mercer) did too.
Next big hurdle....the cover. It is always an exciting but also tense moment when you are sent the cover of your book for feedback. You want to love it but there is this little frisson of fear too. What if you don't?! So I cannot begin to tell you how relieved and delighted I was to click on the file and see THIS absolute beauty.
It not only reflects the story so well but uses the title very cleverly indeed. The designer played for a while with the hues and shadows until everyone felt it was absolutely spot on. I couldn't be more thrilled with it and am very grateful to all the bloggers, readers and friends for all the lovely comments and shares this week.
I've now finished the editing process on this manuscript so cannot wait for it to go out into the world. It's published on October 1 but is available to pre-order now in e-book, paperback and audio versions. Just click on the image to find out more about the story..
I am embarrassed to see how long it has been since my last blog but I hope you will forgive me as I explain how crazy busy my writing life has been of late.
Turns out the life of an author under contract is a hectic one…and I’m making no complaint about that. I'm loving it! That said, it has been pretty full on keeping on top of all my deadlines so here’s a quick recap of all I’ve been up to.
The main challenge in recent months has been editing my debut psychological suspense I Am Watching You while also working on the first draft of my second psych suspense as I needed to get the latter in by the end of May.
Juggling work on two books at the same time is probably the biggest shock to a new author under contract but I’m getting the hang of it finally.
The good news is the proof read of I am Watching You is pretty much done and dusted. I’m SO proud of this new book and I should be able to share the cover very soon. Exciting!
I have also now had terrific feedback on the second book in the deal (phew…always scary to hand in a new book) and have this weekend started editing that second psych suspense…so here we go again, folks!
Meantime I have just accepted an invitation to give a talk and Q&A session at Plymouth Central Library to launch I am Watching You.
The book is out on October 1 (ebook, paperback and audio) but we have decided to stage the event on Wednesday October 11th at 7pm to tie in with Libraries Week.
Regular blog readers will know I am a big supporter of our wonderful local libraries. I have had so much fun staging writer workshops at libraries around Devon but this is my first event in conjunction with Plymouth Libraries so I am really looking forward to it.
Do pop the date in your diary. I understand the event will be free so I’ll post a link on how to reserve tickets as soon as that’s available
Meantime enjoy your own writing and watch this space. Cover reveal for my new book coming very soon!!!
I am so delighted to be able to share my news - a two-book deal for psychological suspense novels with Thomas and Mercer.
This is a new publisher and a new departure for me which is why it is so very exciting. I simply cannot wait to share these new books with you!
Like many writers, I have always had two voices ( think JK Rowling…and also Paula Hawkins - who wrote women’s fiction before The girl on the Train). I think this goes back to my decades as a journalist. Back then I wrote across sectors without thinking about it….crime and dark stories one day and warmer, human interest features another. So I found that when I started writing fiction, two voices naturally emerged as well. Both character-led and distinctively me, but one for warmer stories….and one for darker themes.
a darker theme calling from the shadows...
I’m incredibly proud of my first two novels – Recipes for Melissa and Last Kiss Goodnight – which have been so beautifully reviewed and have sold in translation around the world. But when I sat down at my writing desk earlier this year, there was this darker theme calling to me from the shadows. That other ‘voice’.
I am great believer that you should write what you BURN to write so I rather nervously sent my literary agent the idea and opening and held my breath. Her reply pinged straight back - ‘Wow, Teresa.’
And now here I am with a wonderful deal from Thomas and Mercer....pinching myself all over again.
I Am Watching You
The first of my new books I AM WATCHING YOU tells the haunting story of a witness who receives chilling and threatening hate mail after failing to help a teenager - now missing. At the heart of the story is the shocking reason WHY Ella didn't step up...and the new fear her own family is in as much danger as the missing girl.
It's been decided to stick with my byline Teresa Driscoll for my psychological suspense titles so that readers know it’s very much me but, from the haunting cover and blurb, in a slightly different and darker place. I really hope my existing readers will love this departure, but am obviously hoping this will take my writing to a new audience too.
More news on release dates soon.
Three years ago I lost my father and a great sadness for me was that he never saw that I FINALLY became an author.
I won international deals for my debut Recipes for Melissa (by auction at the Frankfurt book fair ) just a few months after he died.
That breakthrough followed ten long and tough years of trying so my dad certainly saw all the heartache en route, as did the rest of my family and friends.
All the time I was trying to become an author, I felt a little guilty inflicting the rollercoaster of near misses and rejection drama on everyone around me. I had a good life. It felt unfair to moan. I was a journalist and TV presenter and had always earned my living from words. I was lucky. Right? But the truth is becoming an author was always this big dream deep, deep in my heart. Right from childhood. And because of this every rejection really hurt.
I’m currently sorting out my office – shredding a lot of early manuscripts which go years back and are now stored digitally. So it stopped me in my tracks when going through old writing files to come across this very special letter from my father that I had long feared lost. (I have looked in vain for it many, many times since he died.)
OK; so my dad and I didn't have a perfect relationship ( who does?) but we loved each other very much and were fiercely loyal. We were always especially careful to be there for each other when the chips were down.
And he sent this special letter to me when I had just suffered a particularly difficult disappointment in my writing life. A major publisher had been championing one of my early novels. The whole editorial team said they loved my book. And so I agreed to do some editing with them out of contract, by which I mean unpaid and with no promises. I worked like a lunatic for months – stupid hours on top of a full-time job (and two children). The book finally went to an acquisitions meeting (crucial stage) where it was much praised...but, ahem, fell on a close vote.
My literary agent of the time had been sure we had a deal in the bag. So had I. And this one was such an especially near, near miss that I cried bitterly, not least because I was leaving my television work and I needed a new source of income.
And so yet again I had to make the round of calls to family to say that in my writing life, it had gone a bit pear-shaped; from a delicious 'maybe' to a 'no'.
I lost my mother to cancer as a teenager so it was my dad who then sent me this special letter to try to buoy my spirits ,enclosing a newspaper article about Dan Brown’s writing struggles before The Da Vinci Code success.
My dad wrote : ‘ even bestselling authors struggle before they make headway…I am sure you know this but seeing it in print might help to slightly sweeten disappointment…’
I found the letter in an old file with the email telling me that the acquisitions meeting had turned down that early book.
The letter has brought tears to my eyes today. And it has only just hit me how spooky and especially wonderful it is to read dad's words again in such different context. For my debut is about a woman hearing from her mother years after she'd died...through a journal which helps the daughter to go forward in life.
Letters are rare these days...but so very special, aren’t they? It is something about seeing the handwriting and imagining the person with the pen in their hand...
I remember that when I read my father’s letter that first time years back I thought he was just being loving and kind but that things, writing wise, were looking hopeless.
So thank you, dad for believing. And I hope you are somewhere smiling ....that you were right. I did keep going, and I did get there in the end...
No surprise perhaps that my two books so far shine a light on the theme of loss…and how we learn to carry the sadness because the love lives on in our hearts.
I will be keeping this letter very, very safe.
And to all writers reading this and still waiting for your break, I hope you have someone very special cheering you on too.
Chatting on writers' panel - Sat Oct 22, Plymouth Literature Festival 3pm to 4pm. FREE. Plymouth Athenaeum.
Just to mention that I am joining this panel tomorrow and all are welcome - writers and readers. It is to be a fun and informal session, chatting about publishing and sharing tips. Looking forward to it!
For more information about the festival, click on the image for the website link.
I recently finished a new book. It’s now with my agent for pitching and it suddenly hit me that getting published doesn’t end all the ups and downs and the worrying and the wondering. It just allows you to step onto this marvellous rolling road. It’s then down to you whether to go with the flow – whether to let the rolling road determine the speed or whether to walk as well. Or run. Or race...
Whether, in short, to worry, to run so fast you trip...or smile in wonder.
Facing up to this for a moment gave me a wobble. Fact is, it is much too easy as an author to glance around too often. I’m so delighted with what I have achieved…but glance too much and there is a danger you will put yourself down because there will always be others doing better. Selling more books. Making bigger deals.
The important thing, I learn, is to remember always how very lucky we are to be here at all. To this end, I have deliberately positioned my little bookshelf of published novels en route to my kitchen. It means I pass it every day – an important reminder that the dream has come true already.
And so if I get a momentary worry about a current project, an edit or a pitch, I simply pick up the Korean version of my debut. Yes...Korean. My words....in Korean. I remind myself how completely crazy this is and tell myself to give thanks.
You are published in Korean, Teresa. Stop worrying. Sure - keeping this dream alive is now down to me. But choosing how to live it is also down to me.
I write because I love to write. And I want to get better, not to compete with others, but to be better than the writer I was yesterday. Which is why I wanted to use this quote for my blog.
So I share it today with pride and thanks to all those who have helped me on the journey so far. Also to sign off to do the only sensible thing after any writer types THE END and is going on sub all over again..
Which, of course, is not to think too much about how the pitching is going...but to start a new book….
When I first set out on this amazing author journey, I had no idea how much I would need to learn. Not just about writing – though that has, of course, been the greatest joy. ( I cannot begin to tell you how much I have grown as a writer from working with a terrific editor and agent throughout the publication of my first two novels).
No. The constant surprise which I just want to mention in this blog is how non-techy little ol’ moi has managed, one way or another, to grapple with all the marketing bits and bobs which are so crucial these days for any author.
Rewind just a short time and I was watching You tube videos trying to work out how on earth to set up this very website (it really was a self- taught crash course, trust me!). Next I had to learn how to improve my social media technique – playing with apps to jazz up the visuals I was using on Twitter and Facebook.
And today? Well today, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am immensely proud ( and just a little bit shocked) as I have finally set up my own Reader Group using Mailchimp so that I can keep my lovely readers informed of new books, exciting news, discounts and competitions etc.
This follows months and months of me pulling a face whenever a savvy author said to me in passing: ‘You do have your own reader list, Teresa?’…. Er….*coughs into hand* ‘Working on that’.
I did at first wonder how exactly my Reader Group might work. I certainly hate spam myself so don’t want to be pestering people when we all have such very busy in-boxes. But my readers have been so very gorgeous and kind with their feedback, I realised that I did want to find a way to be in touch personally and directly with IMPORTANT news about releases, discounts and competitions.
But setting up the Reader Group list was another steep learning curve. For any author planning to do this, there are lots of terrific blogs out there with basic step-by-step advice. I just googled the process, so you can too. The only hiccups I can report were as follows:
If you would care to sign up right now to reassure me that the whole system actually works, I might just love you forever! Meantime – do enjoy your own writing.
Today has been a really big day for me – exactly a year since my debut novel Recipes for Melissa was published.
I find it strange even to type that last sentence without smiling, actually, because there is still this surreal feeling deep inside, waiting to find myself in that episode of Dallas. Mature readers will know the one – Bobby steps out of the shower and we find it was all a dream…
So in this bizarre (80s flashback!) state, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I have learned during this special first year as a published author.
Lots actually but two key things especially. First – patience and an awareness of the long game. And second - not to be too sensitive and ridiculous when a (thankfully rare) negative review rears its ugly head.
Let’s kick off with patience. After Melissa was published in the UK, I was almost in this dreamlike state. I had a champagne celebration with friends, gorgeous reviews started to come in. I was walking on air….and then? I suddenly realised as the launch euphoria died down that it was not going to be about one single book. One launch. It was a career. A long game. I had to retreat to my writing cave on my tod as I had always done to crack on with book two while waiting to liaise with my German publisher about book one in translation.
I worked for a very long time as a journalist and TV presenter so I have been used to things happening very, very quickly. Constant buzz. Daily deadlines. In publishing it’s very different. You have your moment in the sun and then you have to put your head down and get back to solitary hard work quietly in the shade.
I’m certainly not complaining but I do have a much better understanding of the cycle now – having repeated it all with my second book which came out in March. All quiet work solo in the cave… and then suddenly a great rush of activity and PR.
The trick is to learn patience during the stints in between. What is the saying….all good things come to those who wait.
And now onto the second crucial lesson - how to cope with a negative review. Thankfully I have to date only had a few….compared to well over a hundred gorgeous five stars ( phew!). The truth is I knew it was inevitable that not all readers would like my work and I am very, very respectful of every reader’s right to their opinion. You can’t please everyone. Tastes vary. But it is still very hard not to be upset when someone does not like your book.
The advice is not to take it personally but that, of course, is easier said than done. Hear this….at first it really does feel personal. How can it not hurt when a reader dislikes your work? So if you are a new writer or newly published then I would share the same advice I was given. Try to distract yourself by reading your best reviews all over again. Be respectful of subjectivity. Let yourself be a bit sad ( it certainly feels sad!), go eat a large quantity of chocolate and then DO get it into perspective. This is what I have learned. If the vast majority of readers like your book very much, you’re doing great!
And so this evening as I raise a glass to my first anniversary as a published author, I know exactly what I want to say ….
I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to those bloggers who have supported me this past year by giving a new author a chance and taking the time to read and then write about my debut and my second novel. I owe you so much.
And thank you to each and every one of my new readers who have bought my books and also so kindly reviewed them. You have made all those years of rejection worth every bit of the heartache on the long journey to publication.
I feel very, very blessed and very lucky, doing a job now that I absolutely love.
So this evening I raise my glass to YOU.
Thank you xx
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.