Almost ten years ago, I started writing fiction. I can pin down the moment I started to write almost to the day because I was inspired to write specifically by a television series. That programme was the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South which aired in November 2004, and starred Richard Armitage as John Thornton.
My first attempt at writing a story was a modern fanfic version of the book, imaginatively titled N&S 2005. A couple of months later I was totally hooked on creative writing and stared my first novel, Decent Exposure. In 2006, I found an agent, Broo Doherty, who loved the book and it was published by Little Black Dress. It went on to win the RNA’s New Writers’ Award and was eventually made into a TV movie called 12 Men of Christmas.
So far, so smooth, so easy, eh? Well, not quite. The recession hit, Little Black Dress ceased publishing and e-books and self-publishing transformed the market. I kept writing, through thick and thin, experimenting with different romance genres.
One day in spring 2013, I got a call from my agent saying that Penguin Books was interested in seeing the first few chapters of a New Adult series of novels set at Oxford University. So, I spent my week’s holiday in Cornwall polishing the first 10k and sent it off to Penguin.
Then I waited. And wondered. And stressed. I told myself that it could never happen to me: that I could never be The One who was published by Penguin.
I’d been told that I would hear by a certain date, and as that date crept nearer, my agony grew more acute. Eventually the morning dawned and Reader, I bottled it. By the afternoon, I still hadn’t heard from my agent, so I decided to hide. I went to the one place I knew there was no mobile signal: the health club. I swam in the pool, knowing that every moment I might have The Call with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. My reasoning was that if it was ‘no’ I would be able to tell by my agent’s text or email messages and could compose a cheery, ‘Oh, well, we tried,’ rather than bawl down the phone.
So I came out of the pool, calmly dried my hair, did my make-up and walked into the bar. Instantly my phone beeped with several text messages and missed calls.
“Where the hell are you?” she asked. “Call me!”
I think I knew then, what the answer would be but my hands still shook when I dialled her number…
The First Time We Met is out as an ebook with Penguin on February 13th 2014. Paperback release is scheduled for October 9th 2014.