You find me, once again, in that strange emotional position of having submitted one book to my publisher, Boldwood, whilst starting to work on the next one – as a contracted author, that’s definitely the way of things! Usually, I’m quite pleased to send the manuscript on to agent and editor, but this time, I’m feeling a little bit…weird about it. I know it was time to let it go, but actually pressing ‘Send’ on this manuscript was quite a wrench. Usually, by this point, I can’t wait to send the thing on, but not this time!
There are some reasons for this weirdness, though. Firstly, I took a long time to ‘get into’ the book I’ve just submitted. It had been percolating for a while, having had an initial idea for it when I witnessed something a couple of years ago I’d never seen before, but there were several things that had to change in the early stages, once I realised it was going to be for the Willowbury series rather than the Little Somerby one. I needed to strip out a few details, rearrange some things and also re-theme it as a seasonal read (my first ‘Christmas’ novel, no less!), so it took me a while to navigate my way through the thirty-odd thousand words I’d written while also writing ‘The Weekender’. Timelines needed sorting, and references to Little Somerby changed and adapted (although the brand of cider my characters drink in this new series is the same, of course!)
Because of these changes, the book had to work harder for me. And I know I say this every time I write a book, but I also needed to make sure I was getting things right, probably more than ever for this novel. Much like ‘The Weekender’, there were details, and whole chapters, that needed desperately to be accurate, and ‘right’; not just for the sake of the story, but to do justice to the people who have very kindly given me their time during the research process. Winging it just wasn’t an option for this one! The deal I make with myself when I’m writing is that, if people are kind enough to give me their time and expertise, the very least I can do is try to represent that expertise in the most accurate and respectful way possible (albeit with the odd moment of dramatic license!). There was something about this novel that meant I just needed to spend time with it, to make it work as hard as it could. Loving it took a while, but when I got it back from my agent, suddenly, I didn’t want to let it go again!
So I’ve been tinkering with it, in these late stages, changing single words and mucking about with structure (I have this quirk where I write one too many sentences in paragraphs sometimes and so some got struck from the draft), but really, I’ve just been holding it close, not wanting to let it go just yet, because, damnit, now it’s done, I really, really love the characters and the story! Why this couldn’t have happened when I was 50,000 words in and banging my head against the iMac in frustration that it just wasn’t doing it for me, I have no idea (but then ‘soggy middle syndrome’ is a common condition for novelists, and I’m not just talking about having eaten too many biscuits at the desk!).
But now, finally, it’s gone off my desktop for a little while (until my lovely editor sends it back with things to do), and I really miss it! So much so, that I’m glad the next book in the series will have those characters playing a role, even if they’re not centre stage for it. The funniest thing happened when I was in the late stages of writing; a character who was just supposed to be a ‘walk on’ suddenly gained a voice and a life of her own, and so she’s going to be the focus of this next novel. They do that sometimes, these imaginary people… I really don’t have that much control over them, if I’m being honest! And the sheer joy is that she has a very close connection to the characters in Willowbury book 2, so they can all have a role.
So, once again, I’m setting out on this new journey with a new story, but, thankfully, those characters that are proving so hard to let go of for me in the last one will be with me, to a point, on this trip as well. They have more to tell me, and I am only too happy to listen. I hope that when this book comes out later in the year, that you will love them, too!
And if you want a few clues as to what to expect from the book that’s coming later in the year, let’s just say that it involves a heroine with a profession I know all too well, having done it myself for the past eighteen years, and a hero who regularly takes to the skies. Throw in a Willowbury Christmas season, a village play that hits some bumps in the road, some well-meaning but misguided friends and relations and a whole heap of seasonal drama, and there you have it. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Oh, and the event that I witnessed that I’d never experienced before that triggered the whole thing? This…
If you’d like to read ‘The Weekender’, the first in the Willowbury series, or any of my other novels, click the image to be taken to my Amazon Author’s page: