Getting a book deal is like winning the lottery. You don’t believe that it will ever really happen but you still lie awake at night wondering what it would be like anyway. And, for some reason, you always picture yourself getting the news somewhere lovely looking fabulous or somewhere fabulous looking lovely.
The reality turned out to be a little different – as reality usually does!
It started well though. My lovely friend Marian Keyes (yes I know just how lucky I am to have her as a friend) read my rambling, 164,000-word draft and told me to send it to her agent, Jonathan Lloyd. When he called, weeks later to say he would take me on, Neil and I were on the Amalfi coast celebrating my birthday.
We had walked up the winding hill to Ravello to explore the garden In the Villa Cimbrone. There was a long avenue of wisteria that had rolled out a carpet of lavender petals onto the path below. A walkway called The Terrace of Infinity, perched it seemed, between land and sky overlooking the glittering Adriatic Sea. We were sitting in the sunshine in the rose garden when my phone rang.
After Jonathan told me that he was sending the book out to Orion, Neil and I walked to the cafe and ordered bubbles. Sparkling water for me, champagne for him. It was like one of my dreams!
But, of course, getting an agent is no guarantee that you will get published. I held my breath for the rest of that holiday, waiting for the phone to ring again. Half expecting a call to say that it had all been a mistake.
We came home and another week went by. When I thought about that sunny day in Ravello, it felt like something I had imagined. Then, one morning, I was on the beach walking the dog. It was lashing rain with a few hailstones and a gale force wind thrown in for good luck. A typical Irish spring day!
I was wearing my husband’s waterproof trousers (he is nearly a foot taller than me, so they don’t exactly fit!) and an ancient anorak with a broken zip that I’d cunningly mended with a hair clip. Haggis was wearing the coat we call his Ann Summers cape, because it’s black and shiny with a very racy red lining.
The cape blew off at some point, so we had to retrace our steps along the beach to find it. We were both soaked and, desperate to get back to the car when the phone rang. It was Jonathan again. Orion loved the book and that they wanted another one.
The rain was hurling itself at my face like handfuls of gravel. The wind was inflating the legs of my enormous trousers like sails. The dog was glaring at me, wondering why the hell we had stopped.
That was my book deal moment. And it was lovelier and more fabulous than anything I could ever have imagined.
The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin is out now.