A lot of people ask where the idea for a book comes from….so here is the story behind my second novel.
The truth is it all stemmed from a haunting. Or rather a haunting image.
A long time ago when I was a television reporter in London I was sent to cover a campaign launch on a little green opposite the house of commons. I arrived with my TV crew to find a group of women releasing dark balloons against a clear sky.
I learned, to my great sadness, that they were all mothers and each balloon represented a child they could not find. The stories of the estrangements were many and varied. Runaway children. Custody disputes. Crime...The list went on and on. But though the stories were all so very different, the look in the eyes of all the mothers was the same.
I was young. I was not a mother then but it still broke my heart. I interviewed a number of the women and one took me back to her house to show me the bedroom that she had kept exactly the same since the day her two children were “lost” to her.
I have always been a little haunted by the memory of those balloons and when I was looking for an idea for my second novel, I realised that I wanted to write a fictional story that would capture something important I learned that day. For those brave women taught me the real difference between empathy and sympathy. Through their campaign they gave each other strength and hope and a lot of love. They were able to help each other so much, I realised….because they truly understood each other.
My second novel tells the story of two women who strike up a powerful bond of friendship born of an empathy they don’t at first understand…as they each deal with secrets from their past. The story is entirely made up, of course. It’s a novel and I would never use the facts of anyone’s true story for my fiction. But I do hope I have captured the emotional landscape of what it means to search for someone you love. And the huge importance of true friendship…and the healing power of love.
The book called Last Kiss Goodnight was published in March 2016 and has received more than 100 wonderful reviews. Thank you, readers. It means so much to me to see people enjoying the result of watching those balloons. One reader recently wrote: 'One of the best books I have read this year'. That certainly made my day!
I hope your own writing life is full of wonderful inspiration.
The time has come to pinch myself yet again as I am delighted to share with you the cover for my second novel.
It is up on Amazon right now for pre-order and is published on Friday March 25th as both an Ebook and paperback.
So, given this is take two for me now, I thought I’d jot some brief notes on how this feels second time around. Is it any less surreal? Is there any less excitement, doing this as a ‘published author’ (for, let me check the calendar, a whole seven months now) rather than a complete newbie? The short answer is…er; no, dear people!
This still feels an absolute surreal privilege and I feel no less lucky to have finally ‘got there’.
But some things have, of course, changed practically and logistically. I do , for instance, feel that I have a better professional understanding now of all the processes on the journey to launching a novel. The structural edits. The copyedit. The cover liaison. The cover reveal. The Pr….and lift-off. The heady drama of these final hectic weeks…
Most important I am learning the essential juggling act of editing and launching one book while writing a new one. This will make experienced authors smile as it is probably the biggest adjustment - the joy of having a deal but realising that with that comes a schedule and a series of deadlines!
I also find that I still feel very nervous, truth be told, about what readers will think. I had expected that to diminish a bit with the second book but I learn that this continuum of nerves is perfectly normal too…just part of the territory as a writer. I suppose because we care so much about our writing and our craft, that will never go away. But I do take heart from the wonderful reviews for my debut. Forgive the boast but as I write I have 65 five-star reviews for Recipes for Melissa and feel very, very blessed so thank you to anyone reading this who has been kind enough to buy and review my first novel. Means a lot to me. Do hope everyone likes the second!
We have all heard about "that difficult second book" ...so I thought it was about time I updated you all on mine.
The truth ? I haven't blogged for so very long because - well; it's been...difficult!
I know, I know. I don't want to churn clichés any more than you want to read them. I want it to be all puppies and birdsong and bestseller lists. Come to think of it, I probably shouldn't be so darn honest here but -hey, we are all in this together.
So the truth is I had a little hiccup when I couldn't work on my edits because my lovely UK editor had to have some time off. Not her fault. She really is lovely. Life just happened.
The only problem for me? I am also under contract to deliver this same script ready for translation to my German publisher...who has (not surprisingly) been asking when exactly it will be turning up?
It was getting to the point where I thought I might have to leave the country or stop answering the phone (Author? Deadline? I have no idea what you're talking about. Wrong number. Sorry. Goodbye…).
In the midst of all this the darling husband was wandering around saying helpful things like – but I thought it was your dream to be published….Why are you so stressed?
And then all of a sudden the clouds parted. In came the second edit notes. Hallelujah! I open them, relieved and beaming…to find that my editor has a spectacular suggestion….of restructuring the whole story.
Really? Like – you mean; complete restructuring? No. You're right. In fact it’s a brilliant idea. Genius. Absolutely. I'm on it…
Cue feral domestic life (again!), much frantic late night working to get the script in by Xmas...so that Germany will get it on time too and I can open my emails again.
Blogging? Are you understanding now? Sorry. Really sorry…
But the terrific postscript news is I have somehow not only survived this ‘second novel ‘ rollercoaster but am actually loving the book in its new shape (memo to new writers; editors really are fabulous...always listen). New version goes into my UK publisher this week…and ssshh, whisper this, but we have a fabulous new title to share very soon too.
I am meantime also delighted to see that hardback sales of my debut's beautiful German edition look strong for Christmas - not surprising as it is quite delicious with gold paper front and back plates and a cover worth stroking..(though I may have mentioned this a few times before).
So, all in all, I am slowly moving from dramaqueen/ stress to excitement all over again. More news on pub date and second novel cover reveal coming up. Watch this space!
For now - enjoy your own writing and have yourselves…..a very Merry Christmas!
I have just received an email from my editor to say my edits for book two are on the way…so I have decided on a very quick blog before I dive right back into that editing cave.
Not even three months since my debut was launched on the world and I can’t believe how much has changed. How little has changed. How much I’ve learned. How much I have still to learn...
I remember last Christmas attending my agent’s festive drinks party and being so ridiculously nervous. I knew there would be lots of experienced novelists there and though I had clinched a deal by then– my novel sold in several languages – it hadn’t been published. I hadn’t been through the editing process with a real, live publisher. I hadn’t experienced the thrill of holding that first paperback in my hands.
And now that I have experienced all of those things? Well – it’s every bit as exciting as I had hoped, that’s for sure. But it feels more like a job now. The delicious job I have always longed to do.
I understand a bit more now about what’s expected of me. How the editing process works….The difference between a development edit and a final copy edit. I have a better idea of how long things take.
I am less nervous. Less at sea. I enjoy swapping notes with other authors, feeling that little bit less green about it all. I no longer have to face the embarrassment of telling people just how many years I spent trying to be a novelist...which always felt that little bit ridiculous until I got my happy ending. But I learn now that the worrying never quite goes away. That once published, you tend to exchange the worry over whether you’ll get published….to the worry over marketing and how well your book will sell.
I’ve learned too what it feels like to check Amazon first thing every morning for ranking…and reviews. That incredible thrill when there’s another 5-star. The disappointment when there isn't.
But I’ve learned also, thank goodness, that whatever else is going on – marketing; cover discussions blah blah – once I sit down to write or edit, nothing has actually changed at all. And my apologies to those of you who are thinking - easy to say once you have the deal, Teresa! I don't mean to sound smug or unfeeling over the sting of rejection. Trust me - I had my share! I am just trying to be honest here.
And that is the joy and the relief and the wonderful paradox of it all. For I realise now, above all else, that it is the writing that defines me rather than the publication. I would have kept on writing….deal or no deal. It’s who I am.
So if that is who you are too and you’re still waiting for “the call”….just remember that you are a writer already - aspiring or otherwise - and keep going. Perhaps have a trawl back through some of my old blogs which share tips….and also serve to remind that it wasn’t that long ago that I was ‘aspiring’ rather than ‘published’ too.
To be honest, it simply feels strange. A lot’s changed since I started this blog. I feel blessed - of course I do. And yet at the same time nothing has changed at all. For at the end of the day as I wait to launch into editing this second book….it’s still me and the page. True - I have guidance now and a deal, not to mention some income, all of which is great. My editor will have ideas. Some very, very good ideas. And some I may not agree with and may even cause panic. But once the discussions are over and the work begins, it will essentially be down to me.
Sitting here in my office on my tod. Just me and the page.
The way it has always been.
And the way, thankfully, that I like it…
One of the things that I am learning as a newly-published author is how much trickier it becomes to balance reading and writing. And if that sounds strange, let me explain…
It goes without saying that writers must be avid readers. It’s how we came to want to write….right? I love books. I love reading and I have always made it a priority. It’s a given. But now that I have contracts to honour (lucky me – I’m certainly not complaining!) I find that I am having to shift both my thinking and my scheduling.
Previously I wrote fiction speculatively, alongside my journalism and other paid writing. It meant I set the timetable. If I wanted to put my MS aside and read something fresh instead, I could....and would. Now, of course, I am writing novels professionally and when I am up against an editing deadline, I find it difficult (and more than a little bit frustrating) to fit in quite as much reading as I would like.
It’s just an adjustment. I’m new to everything, after all. Finding my way.
For those who have yet to clinch a deal (do please keep going…and read previous blogs on how long I had to wait!) the “business end” of publishing a book involves an unbelievable number of re-reads. For example, I went through two rounds of development edits… and then a copy edit for my debut Recipes for Melissa. For each one, I obviously read and re-read the MS umpteen times to ensure I had re-stitched all the changes successfully.
I’m a pretty quick reader…but I still allow around four hours to go over my MS. So in the final weeks ahead of publication, I re-read my own book more times than I care to admit! ( I also re-read the final e-book conversion and the PDF of the print version as they were sent through. Over the top? Borderline OCD? I don’t think so. Copy editors are good but mistakes can still slip through and, for myself, I feel the buck stops with the author…so I wanted to try my very hardest to deliver as clean a version of my debut as possible.)
So instead of reading a dozen new books, I seemed to be reading my own over and over and over. Tired eyes? You betcha! I reached the point where I felt I could probably recite whole chunks.
I checked in with a couple of other authors to find this is not unusual at all. Some even said they never find time to read other work while editing. Fair enough. It’s the job, after all. So once my debut was out, I quickly turned to my “to-read” pile. How wonderful. To be reading other novels again. It was like devouring chocolate after a diet.
And then? The publisher is keen to have book two as quickly as possible! Perfectly understandable. So after finishing just a handful of delicious novels by others, I was right back into MS number two, tidying it up for submission.
It’s just gone into my editor and I learn her editorial notes should be back next week. So what am I doing?
I am reading, reading, reading, reading… as much as I possibly can before I am back in that editing cave.
So whatever you are reading or writing just now….enjoy. And do let me know on Twitter or on my Facebook author page how you manage to balance your own reading and writing. All tips gratefully received.
What an incredible week it has been – the publication of my debut RECIPES FOR MELISSA. So amazing, I hardly know where to start.
Regular followers of this blog will remember it all – walking with me through the writing of this book (remember the agony of 2,000 words a day?!) to the pitching for a new agent (was I doing the right thing/would anyone want me?) through the surreal experience of the Frankfurt book fair (7 publishers suddenly in an auction for the book – are you KIDDING me?) to this week. Book launch week. Forgive me – but this took ten years and four unpublished novels so I am going to say it again.
Book. Launch. Week… *pinches flesh*
OK. Deep breath. And it feels right to be as honest as I always try to be here– and I have to tell you that I surprised myself by being every bit as nervous as super excited.
As the very big day approached, I suddenly realised that it was a bit like a wedding. You get so excited about the dress and the cake and the champers that you forget about the marriage. And so it was with me. Suddenly I lay my head down that final night and it hit me that many, many complete strangers would (hopefully) buy and read my book and I began to worry what they might think and say.
It was ridiculous that this had not hit me so fully previously. It is the whole point of being published, after all. It is what we writers want. But I realised that, of course, is not the whole truth. We writers do not want only to be published; we want readers to LIKE our book ..and given it is impossible to please everyone, I started to worry about what people would say. What friends might say even. Some writers seem to have such complete faith in their work that this does not seem to bother them. I am incredibly proud of this book -but I am also wired to worry…
This slight dose of nerves was all in the middle of a whirlwind of publicity which I had been planning for ages. There was an article organised for my local paper the Plymouth Herald plus an interview with the Western Morning News. I was also thrilled to be featured in the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special (current issue) under their “Author’s Secrets” banner. Add to this an interview for a Book Show slot on a European Radio station plus a chat on publication day with the lovely presenter Fitz at BBC Radio Devon. I used to work at the local BBC studios – presenting the nightly TV show Spotlight for 15 years - so this was not only super publicity but a real walk down memory lane for me.
I popped into the studios for the interview, planning to just say a quick hello to a few former colleagues and ended up gossiping for over an hour! Wonderful.
And then there was this huge and difficult question of exactly how to celebrate this UK publication. Abroad my novel is subject to traditional deals and so will be going straight into book shops - first in hardback then mass paperback in Germany. Then Israel, Korea, Brazil and the Czech Republic.
But here I have a very modern deal - in e-book and paperback - with the dynamic publisher Bookouture whose main sales platform is Amazon. You can order my paperback through book shops but given it is not the first sales point, it didn’t make sense for me to organise a book shop launch as such. Also my poor husband was scheduled for a late shift on pub day (he works in newspapers) so a party was not an option either. I was initially, hand on heart, a bit sad about that. But then I felt cross at myself for being ungrateful. So what to do?
In the end I decided to concentrate on all the media activity and to attend the Tiverton Literary Festival to appear on a panel the weekend my book was released. This worked out brilliantly as other panel guests included the very experienced author Veronica Henry…so, despite having no real idea what to expect, I just followed everyone else’s lead and had a fabulous time launching "my Melissa" in Devon.
In the midst of all this my publisher was gorgeous – creating a superb buzz on social media on pub day and , to my delight, the 5 star reviews started rolling in immediately, nudging me up that all-important Amazon ranking and finally helping me to relax and truly enjoy myself. Strangers were reading my book….and loving it. It’s going to be OK, Teresa!
I’d arranged a few glasses of champagne with friends…and then the FLOWERS started arriving. Oh my word. The house hasn’t looked like this since the children were born! After everything finally started to quieten down, I took my husband out for a special dinner as a thank you for all his patience and faith through all the many ups and downs – the rejection and the heartache - that finally brought me to this place. As a published author. (It is his new joke, incidentally – that he is now sleeping with a novelist.)
And so I thought I would leave you today with a little pictorial portrayal of how I got here - as I wish you, as always, all the joy and luck in the world with your own writing and reading.
You know I said I wasn’t going to keep checking my Amazon ranking? Cancel that…
I have discovered the most ridiculous and addictive game. Sorry. I know it’s vain and silly and I am embarrassed even to admit to it here but in my defence I have been waiting for this author launch lark for a very long time and I learn that there are more unexpected “you are kidding me” moments…
It all began when my novel suddenly popped up on Amazon’s “Hot new releases” chart at number two in literary women’s fiction. Don’t quite know how or why….a surge in pre-order sales one particular day. Something like that.
Anyway. The point is I started to find my novel on all sorts of lists and charts, nestled up against novels and authors I really admire. Even big name authors who sell zillions of books. I can only describe this realisation as similar to the day I was handed a costume to wear with the name tag Glenda Jackson. I should probably explain…
I used to work in television news for the BBC and one Children in Need they decided to dress me as Elizabeth the First (don’t ask). The costume duly arrived from BBC HQ with Glenda’s name tag…I’d interviewed her when she became an MP so it was another “I don’t believe it” fan moment,.
You see when you are a journalist working in television you never really see yourself as any kind of celebrity – local or otherwise. At least I didn’t. Just a hack. So I was often embarrassingly star struck.
There was this other time I was invited to a big BBC dinner in London and found myself queuing for the loo with Delia Smith. I tried to act cool but it was ridiculous. Delia Smith!!
And that’s what this feels like now. My little debut popping up alongside all sorts of big name books and authors. Really? Ridiculous. Surreal. Wonderful. And I admit it…..just a little bit addictive. So forgive me my delusions but I'm off to see who else I may be rubbing shoulders with ...at least temporarily. Need to be very quick as for a few moments Jojo Moyes is on the shelf above....
I am normally one for words first and foremost– obviously - but just now it feels as if pictures are the way to go.
Nearly cried when these turned up. Oh – who am I kidding? I did cry. Proper tears. Overwhelmed. Big kid.
The truth is it remains so surreal. A beautiful box of shiny, delicious-smelling books with my very own words inside. My debut! After all these years… Those who have been following this blog with all the ups and the downs and the updates as I was writing this novel (wondering and fearing how it would all turn out) will understand how much this means.
Of course I am learning too that the paranoia that is in the writer’s job description does not, alas, cease once you sell your book to publishers around the world. The next cue is to start laying awake at night worrying if anyone will buy it! (Whatever are we like?) People are starting to mutter quietly about “rankings” and how I will very soon start a new obsession. Chant after me…..do not check your Amazon ranking every hour. Do not check your….
To be honest? I am realising that this way insanity lies. My book is published three weeks this Friday and, having done my very, very best, I can only now cross everything, hope and pray that readers like it and try to enjoy the moment. At least the early signs are good - some very kind bloggers and reviewers are saying nice things on Goodreads (thank you; thank you – I could hug you all) so I am going to try very hard to stop worrying at least for a little while and instead share another special snap.
Below is a picture of me visiting one of the settings featured in the novel (the very gorgeous Porthleven in Cornwall). When I was in the final stages of line editing, I thought often of this mesmeric place and could picture my characters there so very clearly. Worrying isn’t it that our characters become so real to us that we can do that? Watch them. Right there on the beach.
So – to all those who are still pitching away, what can I say? I can say this feels magical, if just a little bit scary too… so do please keep the faith. Keep going. Keep loving it. Keep remembering that it wasn’t many months back I had no idea that all this was finally going to happen.
And will you forgive a nervous first-time author for mentioning that my debut is currently on special offer - pre-order discount price of just 99p. Click on cover or side bar or HERE
I have never wanted to turn into one of those elderly aunts who says how much everyone has grown. And where does the time go?
But here I am noticing how everyone has grown. And wondering where the time has gone.
Take today. First I met a former colleague from my BBC TV Spotlight days – the lovely Simon Hall, pictured with me here. It’s been nearly a decade since we worked together but, my goodness, it didn’t feel like it when we opened Exeter Library’s “Local Writers' / New Talent” Day together.
And then later on, I ventured out into the sunshine with the hubby to the National Trust’s Saltram House. We took a super tour of the house but, wonderful as that was, the thing that really caught our eye was a tree. Not just any old tree, you understand, but a tree that our two sons loved when they were tiny because of its huge and gnarly trunk, split into several twisty peep-holes perfect for climbing. And….well; peeping.
Fifteen years ago, it was – that we used to visit the grounds regularly for walks with our young boys. And yet here again suddenly was this vivid, powerful image, conjured from nostalgia and longing and love – fresh as the daisies in the grass. Our sons peeping through that tree trunk.
And, on reflection, what's the point of embarrassment? May as well hold my hands up. To admit that I seem to be slowly turning into someone who gets increasingly misty-eyed over memories that have so shaped who I am. Mother. Writer. Journalist. Lover of trees.
It's an age thing. Obviously. No point fighting it, Teresa...Though, if you will forgive, I may just pass for now on the furry, zip-up slippers…
Have a great weekend and enjoy your own writing and reading.
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.