When Kirsty asked me to do this feature I did think, ‘When have I had a book moment?’ Book moments are fantasy, they don’t happen in real life. Books are filled with the happy endings that makes us go awww, or the handsome, beautiful man that is so perfect he even comes complete with his own puppies, the perfect job that just happens to fall into our main character’s hands at the perfect moment, a great aunt that dies and leaves our character with a cake/antique/dress/sweet shop which they then make into a rip roaring success. These things don’t happen in real life but that’s why we love these books so much, total escapism into a world where everything is rose tinted.
I’ve had moments in my life that have now made it into my books. The moment when I was on my way to a job interview and there was a dog in the road. I stopped to shoo the dog out the way and the dog jumped in my car and refused to leave. I was faced with the prospect of taking him to the interview with me as some kind of mangy good luck mascot, but thought that might come across as a bit eccentric and I’d be forever known as the ‘Mad Dog Lady.’ Fortunately the owner then turned up and thought the whole thing was hilarious, she even took pictures of her dog in my car and posted it on Facebook, whilst I stood there, waiting patiently for her to remove her dog.
And although that makes for an amusing read, I doubted it was the book moment that Kirsty was looking for.
But then I thought of the moment that led me to here, writing this blog for you now. That moment that is in so many books, where the main character enters a competition and wins. That moment that makes you think ‘Aw that’s nice, but of course it would never happen to me.’ Well for once it did.
So here is my book moment.
I sat on the train and wiped the tears away, angry that I could let it affect me so much. Another rejection.
I’ve been writing for four years now and despite wonderful reactions from agents and publishers about my work it always seemed to be, ‘We love it but it’s not for us,’ or ‘I couldn’t put it down but unfortunately we’re not taking on new clients at the moment,’ or ‘Fantastic characters, very witty and pacy but it’s not quite right for our list.’
I had become blasé about the rejections now, after so many, I could just shrug them off. And as many people said, all the great writers had rejections at some point, it’s the nature of writing. One of my favourite writers, Katie Fforde, famously took seven years to get published so I knew I just had to keep my head down, keep writing and try again.
But this opportunity had seemed so real, it felt like my dream of becoming published might actually come true. Someone had come across my writing, loved it so much that they had passed it onto a publisher who had seemed really keen. I’d sent three synopses of three different books to her and she’d wanted to see all of them. This was progress, this was something. I’d waited and waited to hear back and just as I boarded the train to London an email came through with what now seemed the standard ‘You write really well but it wasn’t quite right for us’ rejection. And as I sat there staring at the words, the tears had come. It was sad and pathetic to get so upset over a rejection, I’d had lots and never cried before, but I’d made that fatal mistake. I’d let myself hope and in this business it’s a dangerous thing to do.
I had a half hour journey before I met my friends in London, we were going to Paris for a few days and I refused to arrive and burst into tears on their shoulders. I busied myself with watching funny videos on youtube, anything to distract from this empty aching feeling inside. By the time I arrived in London and was given a beret to wear for the trip to Paris, the moment had passed.
And in the back of my mind there was still a ray of hope, not so much a ray anymore, more a glimmer, a chink in the grey clouds that might possibly turn out to be a sunny day.
I had been shortlisted in the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition. If I won, I would be published in the Sunlounger anthology alongside Belinda Jones and some of my favourite authors like Miranda Dickinson. I had been a huge fan of Belinda’s for years and as I had been shortlisted she and I had emailed each other a lot. Over the next few days in Paris, her support meant so much. Whilst outwardly I was enjoying being with my friends, doing all the touristy things, inwardly my confidence had taken a battering. I was always going to be the bridesmaid and never the bride. But Belinda was fantastic, encouraging me not to give up.
Two days after returning from Paris the announcement of the winner was due. I don’t think I slept at all the night before and even three hours before the official announcement was made I was constantly refreshing the Facebook page every two minutes just in case the announcement came early.
Half hour to go and Belinda posts how impressed she was with the entries, how she wants to thank everyone who took the time to enter.
Ten minutes to go and Kiri Mills was announced as the Reader’s Choice, with her beautiful, touching story Escape to Runaway Bay.
Five minutes to go and I found out I was in the top three. This was agonising. How could time move so slowly and I’d done it again, I’d now allowed myself to hope.
And then it was one o-clock and ‘The winner is Holly Martin with One Hundred Proposals.’
I stared at the words in shock. I had won. Out of over five hundred entries my story had won. Now I was crying for an altogether different reason.
So what happened next? I became a published author, a month later Sunlounger was released with my little story amongst its pages. Sunlounger shot through the bestsellers list like a hot knife through butter, we reached number 13 in the amazon chart and we’ve been in the top thirty for the last four weeks, selling thousands of copies.
This has led to me meeting and being in contact with some amazing, supportive people. The marvellous Belinda Jones is still fighting my corner to this day. Wonderful Bloggers like Kirsty Maclennan (the owner of this fantastic blog), Victoria Stone and many others. Fellow writers Kiri Mills, Pernille Hughes, Kate Guest, Lisa Dickenson and Rosie Blake. The hugely talented Laurey Buckland and Jack Croxall who have patiently answered all my questions about self-publishing even the silly ones. Everyone says writing is a solitary business but with support like this behind me, I don’t feel that way.
What will happen next for me? Well I’m still writing every day and there are quite a few possibilities out there at the moment that might turn into a publishing deal or they might not. But one thing is for sure, I’m not going to give up on my dreams. I know it might seem that the rose tinted life you see amongst the pages of those beloved books are a fantasy but dreams do come true so please don’t give up on yours.
All I need now is that beautiful man with a puppy.
I would like to thank Holly for sharing her inspirational book moment.