This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I first started writing fiction 25 years ago. I wrote my first novel (a thriller based on my time as newsreader on Breakfast TV) and sent it to a couple of agents and publishers who said that they thought I could write well, but the book wasn’t for them. As I had a tiny baby by then and a job to cope with, I just put it in a cupboard and put the whole thing down to experience. Clearly, my life-long dream of being a writer was not to be.
Fast forward a few years and my husband had a stroke whilst making a film about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I rushed out to Pisa to care for him in hospital and that experience began to weave its way into my subconscious. Several years later I woke up in the middle of the night with a ‘scene’ from a novel that was incredibly vivid – of a woman being crushed against the wall of a tall tower house in Pisa. It was so powerful, I had to get up and write it down. It became the starting point for my historical novel Secrets of the Tower about the mysterious woman who left the money for the Tower of Pisa to be built. This ‘old story would be juxtaposed with a contemporary one, loosely based on my own experience in Pisa. Once again I was faced with the daunting process of sending out a proposal to publishers and facing the inevitable rejection. Then I had a stroke of luck.
I was asked by a client to pitch an idea to an agent called Rowan Lawton. We had a pleasant meeting, and as I was leaving, I stood in her doorway and said, ‘Oh… and I’m sure you’re fed up with people saying this, but I’ve got an idea for a novel’. She smiled and said ‘Go on then… what is it?’
I gave her my ‘elevator pitch’ – I described the book in 30 seconds. ‘I like that’ she said enthusiastically, ‘will you write it for me?’
I was ecstatic. I went off and wrote. Historical novels require a lot of research and that takes time, but over a couple of years, and several drafts later, we had a manuscript that she was happy to start to send to publishers. We had a lot of very positive refusals. I kept a spreadsheet and it makes depressing reading. ‘I love this’, said one nice man at Macmillan, ‘but I’ve just signed another time-slip novel’. ‘I love this, but it’s not for us’ was more common.
Then Rowan sent it to Claire Bord at Harper Collins and she requested a meeting. A meeting was a good sign. She loved it too, but needed me to change various aspects of the book. I did, and we met again. She wanted a bit more tweaking. Once again I was happy to comply. Then Claire moved to become Publishing Director at a new, exciting publisher – Bookouture. Rowan sent the revised manuscript to her and two days later Claire came back to us. ‘She wants it’, said Rowan. I could hardly believe it. It had taken me nearly seven years from that first conversation in Rowan’s doorway to this point. I signed the contract at my desk. There was no big party, no celebration as such. But I did feel that, at last, I had found a home, a publisher who liked my work, and that I had an outlet for all the stories that were floating around in my head. Maybe I’ll send her that one about breakfast telly…
Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix is out now.