Picture it: a boiling hot day on the taxi rank at Manchester Piccadilly train station. A wailing woman (me) and a missed connection to Sheffield.
It’s not a typical dreams-come-true kind of situation, which just goes to show that dreams can start to come true in the most unlikely of places.
I’ve always written stories. I started writing a novel when I finished my English degree and after working on it for a few years, reached the point where I knew I had to actually let someone *gasp* read it. I looked for a distance learning course and found Novel Writing with The London School of Journalism. I enrolled and was assigned my tutor: Margaret James. Lightning bolt #1.
Margaret really helped me see my writing in a more professional way. She was encouraging, expert and constructive. When the course ended, she suggested that I join the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme (RNA NWS). I tried to join the scheme, but it was full for that year. I was still in touch with Margaret through email, and she suggested that I attend the RNA annual conference anyway, as a guest. It was one of the most daunting and exciting days of my life. Everyone was so friendly and I learnt so much that I left the conference absolutely determined to get a place on the NWS the following year.
My birthday arrived, and my husband bought me a MacBook Air. I saw my fabulous new computer as a Carrie Bradshaw-esque sign that I should write something better than my first book, so I started another novel set in my hometown, Blackpool. I applied Margaret’s advice, researched properly, thought carefully and challenged myself. As soon as applications for the NWS opened at midnight on January 2nd, I emailed to ask for a place. I got one. I jumped up and down a bit in delight. Lightning bolt #2.
When I booked onto the RNA annual conference again, this time as a member, I managed to arrange a ten minute slot with Charlotte Ledger from Harper Impulse, the new digital first imprint from HarperCollins. I’d seen the HarperImpulse website and loved it. I was nervous, but I couldn’t WAIT.
My appointment with Charlotte was at 11.10am in The Edge building of Sheffield University. Although I do drive, my navigation skills are dire. So I decided to catch the train, which involved one change at Manchester. My first train arrived on time, and on I hopped, full of excitement about meeting Charlotte. I read through the first chapter that I’d sent her in advance of our meeting, made some notes to use as prompts during our chat….and then the train juddered to the most frustrating stop I have ever encountered.
People sighed, the train’s engine was silent, the conductor hid away from us all. I had minutes between this train and my connecting one to Sheffield. I tried to search for other train times on my phone, but there was no signal (obviously, because I was now living a horror film where phone signal or any ray of hope vanishes). Eventually, we started to move forward again, albeit at a speed so slow it actually hurt me.
So I got to Manchester, I’d missed my connection, the next train to Sheffield wasn’t for another hour and I was going to miss my slot with Charlotte. She would see me as a blank non-attender, my dreams were shattered, and all the rest…unless! I made a snap, momentous decision to ask how much a taxi from Manchester to Sheffield would be.
So this is where I began: a boiling hot day on the taxi rank at Manchester Piccadilly train station. A wailing woman (me) and a missed connection to Sheffield. The figure I was given by the first taxi driver on the rank made my eyes water.
‘I’ve got a very important appointment,’ I wailed, ‘but I can’t afford that!’ (I really couldn’t; I was about to move house and had spent millions on fees that very week).
The taxi driver refused to negotiate. So I moved along to the next taxi. I haggled him down to half his original price. When I got to Sheffield (in plenty of time for my appointment), I realised I was £2 short. I gave the driver his pathetic fee and gushed about how he was a lifesaver. He grunted at me (furious), and sped off. I tried to find The Edge. I went the wrong way and then had to turn back on myself. It was so hot I thought I was going to die. I eventually found the building, went in, had a glass of water and waited for Charlotte.
After all that, I was early.
When she arrived, Charlotte was so incredibly lovely that I knew I would have been insane to miss my slot with her. We talked about my chapter, Charlotte said she loved it and then she asked me to send her my whole novel. She phoned me a few months later and said that HarperImpulse wanted to offer me a two book deal. Lightning bolt #3.
Morals of the story:
1. Never give up
2. Learn how to drive yourself to Sheffield
Secrets in the Shadows will be out on 20th March and you can read the first chapter in the FREE Loving New Year, Love Romance sampler below.
You can read more about the amazing RNA here: http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplespace/7057875333/”>purplespace</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>