Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction. If you read in a novel that a debut author received ‘the call’ that all writers dream about the night before she flew out of England to start a new life, you might find the timing far-fetched. But that’s exactly what happened with my own book deal moment.
Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that it takes around ten years to learn to do anything really well has a lot of truth in it. Writers need perseverance just as much as talent. When I received the call that Atlantic had offered a two book deal, it was almost ten years exactly since we had left comfortable jobs in London, and sold our house so that my husband could learn to fly in Spain. I had already written a novel, getting up an hour early before work to type on an old green screen computer with the keyboard balanced on my then boyfriend’s sock drawer, but Spain gave me the chance to concentrate on writing.
We settled in the orange groves and mountains near Valencia, which inspired the setting for ‘The Perfume Garden’. I tried writing articles, short stories, film scripts. At first, our P O Box in the nearest village filled up with rejection slips, (I used them for kindling, lighting the log stove each night), but gradually I learnt how to write and get published. You need a certain resilience to be a writer. I think the famous American author who opens her shows by emptying two suitcases of rejection letters onto the stage is both honest and typical of the experience of many writers.
As jobs, and houses came and went – seven moves in six years, thanks to the pilot’s career, and our children were born, I kept on writing in the early hours and evenings, and hoping. On the strength of my first, unpublished, novel, I started to work with a wonderful agent. Then, in November 2009 I was picked for the finals of ‘The People’s Author’ on ITV. Success seemed tantalisingly close. By this point, we knew there were some big decisions to make. My husband’s airline made hundreds of pilots redundant just before Christmas. We were on the move again – to the Middle East this time. I finished the manuscript of a new novel, ‘The Beauty Chorus’, and sent it off to my agent that Christmas.
Then, the night before I flew out to Qatar with our young children to join my husband, my agent rang. An editor at Atlantic loved ‘The Beauty Chorus’ – did I want to talk to her? ‘Sure,’ I said, and scribbled down the number. Perhaps sleep deprivation and exhaustion makes you more relaxed than normal – this was ‘the call’, the one that normally you would be bouncing off the ceiling about. It was fun, we chatted – the editor clearly ‘got’ the story. I hung up, and soon got caught up in all the last minute preparation with the children. My agent rang back. We had a deal. When the plane left the tarmac the next morning, and we said farewell to England, it felt like our very own happily ever after.
Here's the link to our review of The Perfume Garden, which was one of our favourite books of 2012. To celebrate the publication of The Perfume Garden in paperback on 1 June, we're giving away a massive 10 copies of the paperback with this gorgeous new cover.
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning, is leave a comment telling us why you want a copy of the book.
All winners will be contacted after this competition closes next Wednesday at noon. (Entrants from UK and Ireland only, please).
Kate Lord Brown's Website