Have you ever wondered how some of the Darley Anderson authors got into writing considering their diverse lives and careers? Want a sneak peek into the secret life of an author? Ever felt like you might have a book in you somewhere and you might just need the inspiration to do something about it?
Cesca Major’s heartbreaking debut novel, The Silent Hours, was published to huge acclaim in June (about to be published in paperback on 5th Nov) and Woman & Home featured the inspiration behind her getting into writing. Inspired by this article we decided to ask our adult brilliant authors about their own journeys into writing…
Jane Costello, author of nine bestselling novels including the RoNa nominated THE TIME OF OUR LIVES (Simon & Schuster):
As a teenager I became hooked on that feeling when you’re so engrossed in a book that you just have to keep turning the pages, no matter how late at night it is. It was that feeling that made me want to be an author, yet saying that felt as fanciful as, ‘I want to be the next X-Factor winner’. So I became a journalist, which at least gave me the opportunity to write. I loved my job, but my secret ambition never left me and for years I made repeated clumsy attempts at writing a novel, none of which were ever finished.
Then I had my ‘eureka’ moment, while in a pew at a friend’s wedding, watching her walk down the aisle followed by her bridesmaids. I thought, why has nobody ever written a romantic comedy called ‘Bridesmaids’ – one about the dramas, the friendships and the sheer fun of something most women experience at least once in their life? I decided there and then that if nobody had done it, it had to be me. I started writing the next day, never dreaming it could turn into the best-seller that it ultimately became.
Rosie Blake, author of HOW TO GET A (LOVE) LIFE and the upcoming HOW TO STUFF UP CHRISTMAS (Corvus):
I used to write endless diaries which were all full of angst and TMI about who was looking at me funny or who I wanted to kiss that week. They were for my eyes only but they got me into into the habit of writing regularly. The first feedback about my writing was from friends. Before social media (*stares at you over reading glasses, readjusts dentures) I used to write very long emails to a group of friends when I was travelling. I tried to make them amusing (“I’m being stalked by a parakeet” “I got chased by a monkey – LOL” etc) and really loved writing them. The more absurd the better. Some people asked for more and I started to believe I could write. I moved onto writing short stories and won a couple and started working on a novel. It went from there…
Phaedra Patrick, author of the upcoming THE CURIOUS CHARMS OF ARTHUR PEPPER (Harlequin Mira):
I’d always, secretly, wanted to be a writer from a very early age, however I told myself that ‘people like me’ didn’t write books. In my mid-twenties I visited a tarot card reader with friends. I’m not a big believer, but when he told me (without prompting) that I would be a writer and sell lots of books, I took this as the sign that I should follow my dream and put pen to paper.
With a lot of hard work, experimenting, research (and many rejections along the way), I got here in the end. I now write full time and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper will be published in eleven countries during 2016.
B.A. Paris, author of the upcoming BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (Harlequin Mira):
‘You do it, Mummy!’ Those were the words that spurred me to write. One of my daughters had told me that she had an idea for a book so when I came across a competition for an 80.000 word novel, I was really excited for her. But when she checked the rules, she found she was too young and encouraged me to enter instead. I had always wanted to write but imagined myself as a writer of children’s stories rather than novels, so the thought of writing 80.000 words was daunting. That night I had an idea for a story and the next day, I began writing – and found I couldn’t stop! It became an obsession. Freshly-baked cakes and neatly-made beds became things of the past and I began to resent anything that took me away from writing, even the teaching job that I loved. It took me about a year to calm down and integrate writing into my life rather than letting it take over. But six years on, if I could spend all day, every day writing, I would!
Tim Weaver, author of the bestselling David Raker series (Penguin):
I’m not sure if this is a defining moment in terms of choosing to become a writer, because I always wanted to be a writer from as far back as I can remember, but I’d say it was the difference between getting published, and not getting published. I’d spent almost eight years trying to get anyone interested in Chasing the Dead, and the more rejection letters I got, the harder I’d tried to work at it – editing, re-editing, editing, re-editing. But the absolute best thing that ever happened to me was taking a six-month break from the manuscript after my daughter was born. Coming back to it after some extended time away allowed me to see the work-in-progress for the less-than-stellar piece of writing it was, and after spending a year rewriting it – pretty much from the ground up – I found myself an agent (Hello Camilla!) after only three months of trying. So, if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to get some distance.
Lee Weeks, author of the bestselling Johnny Mann and the top 20 Ebony Willis series and the upcoming COLD JUSTICE (Simon & Schuster):
When my twenty-year marriage was coming to an end I began examining my life. It was when I was looking at my own collection of poems, that I came across Morning Market, a poem I had written whilst living in Hong Kong, at a time when I hit rock bottom. The poem sums up the brutality and desperation of my life at that time. I used it as inspiration to write a semi-autobiographical story.
When the end of my marriage actually came, I had a ‘this is my time’ moment. I decided to give writing a proper go. I worked on my story, bringing out the Hong Kong detective who had tried to help me at the time, and the Johnny Mann series was born.
James Carol, author of the acclaimed Jefferson Winter (Faber) series:
I wrote my first novel back at the turn of the millennium. At the time, I was just curious to see if I could actually do it. I’d always loved reading, but writing one… When I got to the end, I discovered a curious thing. I wanted to write another. And when I finished that book, I wanted to write another. See, that’s the thing no one tells you. Writing’s an addiction. It’s a drug. The days when the words line up exactly how they should are pure joy. That’s the high you’re chasing. I’ve been writing novels for fifteen years now and I love doing it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. The truth is I don’t want to do anything else.
Lesley Pearse, bestselling selling author of 23 women-in-jeopardy novels including the No.1 bestseller WITHOUT A TRACE (Penguin):
My career in writing began with a humorous letter to Woman’s Own about the contents of my fridge (or lack of edible content really) To my shock they not only printed it as letter of the week but paid the princely sum of £25 for it. Somehow it altered my whole outlook. realising I wasn’t likely to be able to make a career out of letters, I started on short stories, including doing a home study course on short stories. As soon as I began the first of 16 lessons, I knew it was my thing. Nothing stopped me writing, not three small children, a business and home to take care of. It was to be many years before I got my first book Georgia published, 3 other books banished to the dustbin. But I see that time as my apprenticeship and like any focussed apprentice I never allowed myself to doubt I wouldn’t get there in the end.
Jo Platt, author of READING UPSIDE DOWN (sold in 6 territories worldwide):
I have always enjoyed writing, and my preference has always been for comedy. Maybe it was because my focus was on making myself and others smile, that I for so long viewed writing as a guilty pleasure, and far too much fun to be a potential career. And then, one afternoon, I was having a cup of tea with a friend at her kitchen table when she mentioned a spoof school newsletter, which I had written and circulated to friends, to cheer us all up at a rather bleak time. She was laughing over something I’d written when she suddenly said, ‘Why don’t you write something longer, Jo? A book. We all think you should.’
It was such a simple, perhaps throw-away, comment and yet that was a defining moment, perhaps the defining moment, for me in terms of my writing. It felt as if I had been given permission, a mandate, to make writing a greater priority and to take it seriously. As a result, I went home and started drafting Reading Upside Down that same evening.
Of course, since then, there have been other moments and events which stand out for me and which I will never forget. The extremely assertive friend, threatening me with menaces until I had promised her that I wouldn’t simply leave the finished manuscript to rot at the back of my knicker drawer, but would instead send it to an agency. And, not long after that, the moment I received an email from my now agent, Camilla Wray, telling me, with great enthusiasm, how much she loved my book – an enthusiasm and belief in both myself as a writer and in Reading Upside Down as a novel, which she has never lost.
But, before all that, came those kind and encouraging words over a cup of tea at a kitchen table, without which I would still be scribbling and giggling away in secret, instead of being out and proud as a writer. And for those kind words – and that cup of tea – I shall remain forever grateful.
Kerry Fisher, author of THE SCHOOL-GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE and THE ISLAND ESCAPE (Avon):
Before I started writing novels, I was a journalist and one of my jobs was reviewing books for Candis, a national women’s magazine. The more I read, the more I thought I’d like to have a go at writing my own novel. I was ridiculously naive about how hard it would be to stay motivated to finish a book, let alone how hard it is to get published. However, one of the things that really helped was taking an online novel-writing course with the University of California, because it provided immediate feedback and deadlines. As soon as I started the course, I felt so excited and passionate about writing again – something I’d lost over the years of working as a journalist. It took me a few years to summon up the courage to give up journalism completely and write novels full-time but I don’t regret it at all – it’s a luxury to inhabit a fictional world where you make everyone do what you want!
Emma Kavanagh, author of the critically-acclaimed FALLING and HIDDEN (Arrow):
I’ve written my entire life. For as long as I can remember I have been constructing stories. I had never, however, written a novel. There’s something about that word, the sheer vastness it implies, that makes it seem impossible. How do you manufacture 90,000 words out of thin air?
Then, one day, I was standing on a police firearms range, taking part in close protection (bodyguard to you or I) training for firearms officers, and a story came to me. I attempted to shrug it off. I was busy and, frankly, if I didn’t pay attention, there was a chance that I would get shot. But the story remained. So, I decided to try it, to just see if I had it in me to right something that could be considered a novel. As it turned out I did. It wasn’t a very good novel. But it was enough to convince me that 90,000 words could in fact be manufactured if you just give yourself the chance.
The logical next step was to continue with my business (a consultant in police and military psychology) whilst I attempted to write a book worthy of publication. Unfortunately, logic is rarely my strong suit. Instead, I scaled back my travel, began limiting the jobs I took on, and threw myself into writing. It was the writer’s equivalent of putting everything on black. I am, however, an all or nothing kind of woman. It was a massive gamble, but, thankfully, one that paid off. I remember hearing Lee Child talk about his career. He said it worked, because it had to. And for me the same was true. I had no choice but to be successful.
I had to answer a question earlier – what is your greatest ambition? And my answer was, this. To keep doing what I’m doing. Not many people are lucky enough to say that!
Part two coming next week featuring Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency authors…