One score and ten years ago…
With apologies to Abraham Lincoln – I couldn’t resist – it is thirty years ago, almost to the day (it was actually December 2) when my first book, An Image of You, was published.
It was my fourth attempt to write a book for Mills and Boon. I do, somewhere, still have my first rejection letter. I seem to recall the word “wooden” used to describe my characters, and a suggestion that I read books by Elizabeth Oldfield and Vanessa Grant. As you can tell, it is ingrained in my memory.
I later had the enormous pleasure of meeting Elizabeth at author lunches, along with so many fan-favourite romance authors. But back to that precious moment. The arrival of my first box of books. I’d been out somewhere and when I came home the box was sitting on my desk, with my husband and daughter staring at it, waiting for me to open it.
I received six copies of the gorgeous hardback. There must have been paperbacks, too, because they went out with press releases to the newspapers, but it’s the image of the hardbacks that’s fixed in my memory.
In the past thirty years it has been published countless times in any number of languages. Here’s a recent German language edition.
Social Media? Wot social media…
It was in the days before social media and camera phones, so there are no selfies in which I am standing next to it on the shelves of my local W H Smith, but it was there. It was even on the bookstand in my local Co-op.
Thirty years have not changed that. The Daily Express interviewed me recently and they refused to publish it unless I allowed them to include my age. Although since they assured me that I didn’t have to tell the truth, I can’t really see the point.
And before all that?
I’d had my third rejection from Mills and Boon (less about the woodenness of my characters, more about my plot choice) when I won both the monthly short story competition in Writers’ News (now incorporated in Writing Magazine) and a writing competition in a magazine for the first thousand words of a book.
The prize was lunch with an editor from Century publishing at L’Escargot in Greek Street. Lenny Henry was sitting at the next table. He tripped up a waitress with his large feet.
Sadly, all I had were those first 1000 words and they are still sitting in a file somewhere, waiting to become a book. However, the editor did suggest that Mills and Boon was my target market.
And so to number four…
Spurred on by this proof that I wasn’t kidding myself that I could write, I applied myself to book four – much helped by Mary Wibberley’s book, To Writers With Love, which I’d bought when it was first published. And yes, I did get to meet her, too.
Learning from experience, this time I didn’t write the entire book. I sent off the first three chapters of the book that would eventually become An Image of You in order to test the plot premise.
The editor who finally accepted it told me that an assistant who read my submission had written a rejection letter. It must have been very encouraging because when it crossed her desk for signature – all this was long before email — she asked to see what I’d written.
The humour caught her attention. (Thank you, Mary Wibberley!) Nine months later, on the 19th July 1991, I signed my first contract.
It has been an amazing thirty years. I treasure the many wonderful readers who have stayed with me all these years. And I cherish the friendship of fellow writers who have provided a worldwide support network. The kindest and most supportive group of people (no they are not all women) in the world.
Awards, I’ve had a few…
…and yes, I am going to mention them!
Award nominations have added a little champagne sparkle to the last thirty years. There have been eight Rita nominations – and two Ritas for The Best Man & the Bridesmaid and The Marriage Miracle, sit on my bookshelf.
My latest book, Redeemed by Her Midsummer Kiss (I had my nails done to match the cover!) was published this spring. So what next?
Retirement? I am eligible for a bus pass…
Well, no, retirement isn’t on the agenda, but that’s a subject for another blog.
And here is Liz – you can’t see them, but she’s wearing her pearl earrings.