This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
It was Spring 2011 and I’d just moved back to London after two years living and working in Bangladesh. My plan was to get another job in TV – I’d been a Commissioning Editor for various broadcasters before I’d gone overseas – and I figured (or at least hoped) that two years wasn’t long enough for everyone to have totally forgotten me.
But I arrived back to find the UK in the depths of recession. I knew things were bad, of course, but it was quite different actually feeling it. And by feeling it, I mean discovering that there were significantly fewer jobs around than there had been when I’d left. And that of all the jobs there that were around, none of them seemed to have my name on them.
In the absence of gainful employment there was, however, an insistent buzzing in my head. It was an idea for a book. And although that idea was little more than a title and a very broad, very loose plot, the buzzing was pretty noisy. So I sat down and started writing. I wrote the first chapter and a twenty-page outline for the rest. And then I researched agents I thought might like it and sent it to four of them, expecting it to languish at the bottom of their slush pile for months.
But a few days later, I got an email from Luigi Bonomi – an agent I knew by reputation to have not only a stellar list of clients, but also a fantastic track record with debut novelists. He told me he loved what I’d done so far and truly believed it would sell. I remember running downstairs to show the email to my husband – my very patient and supportive husband – physically shaking with excitement.I met Luigi a few days later and instantly loved everything about him. My relationship with him turned out to be the single biggest influence on my writing: he helped me shape the narrative, read and gave notes on drafts, and – most importantly – helped me to keep believing that the book might have A Future.
That day I first met Luigi, I was already three months pregnant. It gave us a very clear, indisputable deadline: the book had to be finished and ready to sell before I gave birth, in six months’ time.
In September 2012, I waited anxiously as Luigi sent out the finished manuscript to publishers. I was two weeks away from my due date and my days were mostly spent lounging on the bed, feeling like a beached whale and obsessively refreshing my inbox for news. It was only two days after the submissions had gone out when an email arrived from Luigi: he’d just had lunch with the Editorial Director of Penguin and they were going to make an offer on the book. Penguin were going to offer! As in, probably the most prestigious and well-known publishing house on the planet! I remember feeling slightly dream-like and a little bit dizzy and that, if I didn’t phone my husband to tell him right away, it might turn out not to be real after all.
Thankfully, it was real. By the end of that week the details of the deal had been ironed out and I’d even met the woman who was to be my editor at Penguin. My actual Penguin editor.
A little over a fortnight later (way beyond her due date – it turns out my little one isn’t quite as good at keeping to deadlines as I am!), my daughter came into the world. As months go, I’d say it was probably about as good as they get. And I can’t wait for the day I can tell her the story of how she was still safely ensconced inside of me the day her mum got her first (but hopefully not her last!) book deal.
Hannah's first novel, The Dead Wife's Handbook, is out now.