Saturday, 11 April 2015

Thrills and Spills!

I’ve just finished watching the Grand National and, as usual, there were lots of thrills, spills and surprises. The whole thing is always so unpredictable – favourites fall, outsiders come from nowhere, some start off well but then seem to give up, and they all spend the whole race jumping over enormous fences, often with no clear view of what’s on the other side, and jostling and tripping over each other in their desperation to win. Sounds just like the writing world!

The books are, of course, the horses – lots of them all launched at once, with one or two destined to become bestsellers but the majority likely to have their short moment of fame before falling flat on their face or sinking without trace - and the writers are the jockeys trying to hang on and steer them to victory. It can be a very bumpy ride!

My entry into the novel-writing arena started twenty years ago when I won a ‘best opening to a novel’ competition and, as a result, soon found myself with a finished manuscript and an agent. I felt that I must be on my way to fame and fortune. After all, I had moved up from being an apprentice rider to proper Grade 1 jockey status, and the race had begun! What could possibly go wrong? But, as in any race, I soon discovered that plenty can. Some publishers just weren’t interested, one liked it enough to put it through four readings before saying no, and some said ‘Not this book, but let us see the next.’ Maybe I had become the right jockey at last, but I was still riding the wrong horse!

Taking a fall at that stage hurt. I jumped off the horse, put my novelist’s hard hat away, and became a successful short story writer instead, swapping the long hard unpredictable ride of the steeplechase for the more comfortable world of women’s magazines – a series of fairly easy short sprints with far fewer hurdles to overcome.

But, over the last couple of years, my mind has turned again to my real love – novels. Like veteran jockey A P McCoy, riding his last National today before hanging up his saddle for good, I may be getting older but I still want my moment of glory. I want to see my book traditionally published, sitting on the bookshop shelves, and selling well. And then to go on and do it again, and again. I want to be a winner. And this time, it just might happen!

My newly completed novel passed through the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers Scheme last year, not entirely unscathed, and after a bit of ‘grooming’ the hunt began for just the right trainer (agent!) to get it in tip-top condition and ready to find a permanent stable.

And now… I am happy to announce that I have just signed with an agent! The lovely Hannah Ferguson from the Hardman Swainson Literary Agency is exactly the right agent for me. We get on well, she likes my story and, with a bit of luck, the winning post could again be in sight!

And, today, I really do believe in luck. My baby granddaughter, just 5 weeks old, grunted at just the right moment when her mummy read out the list of runners, and her choice, ‘Many Clouds’, just won the Grand National, putting an amazing £500 into her savings account! Who says a beginner can’t, just occasionally, get ahead of the field and take the prize?