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Monday, 27 August 2012

How To Turn Into A Novelist...

Today I have a guest on my blog - novelist Linda Mitchelmore - who gives us a refreshing and honest account of her journey towards publication.  Linda is one of those people you can't help but like and this is reflected in the success of the hundreds of short stories she has had published  all over the world.  She also has romantic memories of her first trip to Guernsey when she and her partner drank rum and blackcurrant to the sound of the lapping waves...a girl after my own heart then!   So, over to you Linda...

It was a long time coming…not so much the gestation period of an elephant to get my novel, TO TURN FULL CIRCLE, into print…but more a herd of the things.

I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and submitted six contemporary novels – most of which went to second reads but alas without an agent to take me on – before I changed genre and decided to write an historical romantic novel. The NWS suggested I send my manuscript to Choc Lit – for which you don’t need an agent but for which you do need a male point of view. My novel, at that stage, didn’t have a male point of view, but I took NWS advice and I wrote one in. I sent off the first three chapters and synopsis and sat back to wait for Choc Lit’s decision.
It wasn’t long before they got back to me asking to see the rest – and warned me there might be quite a wait before I heard if they were going to take me on, or not. I’d been in this position a few times with previous NWS entries so I wasn’t building up any hopes when I parcelled up my book.
But I liked my heroine, Emma Le Goff, and I didn’t want her story to end with this book. So I began a sequel, starting where TO TURN FULL CIRCLE ended.
I was eighteen chapters in with my sequel (working title NO TURNING BACK) when Choc Lit got back to me. It had been a longer wait then I’d been told to expect, but I’m a patient lady! And besides, I was going on the premise that no news is good news.
All the same, I was almost too afraid to open up that e.mail. I’d always thought I’d whoop and cheer and maybe shed a tear or six of joy, but I didn’t.
My husband came into my writing room with a cup of coffee as I sat staring at the screen reading over and over that Choc Lit were interested in offering me a contract and would I like to go to London to meet them.
“Oh,” I said, “Choc Lit are interested in offering me a contract.”
“You couldn’t inject just a bit more enthusiasm into that, could you?” he joked.
But he cracked open some champagne for me anyway, even though my signature wasn’t on the dotted line yet.
So….off I went to London. Lyn Vernham, of Choc Lit fame, came to The New Cavendish Club to meet me. I was a lot more enthusiastic this time – and also rather nervous. It could still all have gone pear-shaped for me. Choc Lit need to know that their authors can do the media stuff – booksignings, talks, interviews and so on. I’d been in charity anthologies before and had done about half a dozen booksignings so I was fine with that. I cringe now to think how I sold myself….in the nicest possible way, of course. And confession time had come because I hadn’t mentioned my profound deafness to Choc Lit before that meeting.
“I’ve planned Emma’s story as a trilogy,” I prattled on.
Lyn smiled at me and said, “Good.” And then she offered me a contract. And so began the start of the wonderful, exciting, and – at times – scary next part of my journey to publication.
It was decided to keep my own name for the novel as I’ve had 300+ short stories published worldwide now and readers will know my name. Linda Mitchelmore – novelist …it still seemed unbelievable to me that this was really happening after so many years of trying. But I was getting used to the idea!
I had a bit of a wait while the edits were done and sent back to me to work on. Did I say edits? For me that was a bit of a re-write and then another jiggle or two. My heart was in my mouth that my efforts wouldn’t be what Choc Lit wanted and that my lovely balloon of hope would deflate again.
But then book cover designs began to come my way. Which ones did I like? Hate? Think were suitable? A publication date – 7th June 2012 - for TO TURN FULL CIRCLE was announced on Choc Lit’s website. So, it was really happening, then? I began to breathe a little more easily.
TO TURN FULL CIRLCE was entered for the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award and I set off to London again for the awards ceremony. I didn’t win, but another Choc Lit writer – Evonne Wareham – did, so that was all right then!
I had another month to wait for my book to hit the shops …and what a day that was! My local, independent, bookshop – The Torbay Bookshop – hosted a launch evening for me. I was shameless in my PR for my own event! I had flyers printed and sent them to everyone I knew in my area – and to some out of it. I left bundles of the things in Paignton and Brixham libraries. I touted them around the neighbours. I kept a bundle of them in my bag and I took them with me everywhere I went in case I bumped into someone I knew who I’d left off my list. I even pinned one up on our local Sainsbury’s ‘local events’ noticeboard (I asked first in case anyone is wondering!). And it seemed to work – the bookshop was full to bursting for the launch despite it being the worst June evening for weather on record.
Must just add that the publication date for NO TURNING BACK is June 2013… so, I'd better get on…


Monday, 20 August 2012

Humour and Heartbeak

Jojo Moyes made me cry yesterday. She made me read her novel Me Before You  in one sitting because I couldn't put it down, because I haven't felt such empathy with two characters I've only just met for a very, very long time.  I don't really do book reviews on this blog - I leave that to the experts - but every so often a book comes along that shouts to be recognised, to be picked up and devoured, and this is one.

It's not a subject that will appeal to everyone. The right to die is currently in the news following the appeal to the High Court by  58-year-old  father Tony Nicklinson, who has suffered from locked-in syndrome since a catastrophic stroke seven years ago.  His agonised face when he heard he must  carry on living,  despite being trapped in his own body, was flashed all over the world.

But Me Before You isn't just a story about quadriplegics, about Dignitas or about the rights and wrongs of living with disability.  This is an amazingly touching love story that brings together two people whose lives, but for a motor cycle accident, would never have crossed.

It isn't easy reading, despite the hype that it's a 'glorious romance.' But it should be compulsory  for those of us who sometimes question the meaning of  our complicated, yet fulfilling lives.

So, no, I'm not going to review the book. I'm just going to say that you really should take a look.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Every Paralympian deserves a gold medal

I once asked a woman I was interviewing for a job to explain her idea of stress. 'My son was in an accident when he was 12,' she said, 'and he's paralysed from the waist down.'

I have never forgotten that woman's words. Her son went on to  successfully compete in the Paralympics , no doubt with his mother's encouragement ringing in his ears.

Today we hear that a record 2.2 million seats have already been sold for the  Paralympic Games. At the opening ceremony on August 29,  athletes now leaving the Olympics will be replaced by 4,200  Paralympians, all of them with success stories  of their own.

However loud we cheered for our home-grown medalists  we should get ready to cheer a little louder for these fearless athletes who have never known the meaning of  the word 'can't.'

'Thanks for the warm-up,' joked one Paralympian on the last day of the Games. 'Now for the real thing.'

Monday, 6 August 2012

Wood you like to join me?

This is my new writing place - a wooden arbour tucked away at the back of the garden. My fascination with words started when I was very young and my mother taught me to recite poetry.  The first  poem I ever learnt went like this:

  Old Wood gave me some wood and said would I carry the wood through the wood. And Wood said if I would he would give me the wood, and if Wood said he would, Wood would!

This showed me the importance of  punctuation and intonation when reading out loud, and demonstrated how words could be spelt differently even when they sounded  exactly the same.

The other poem that I have never forgotten was even more prosaic.

It was a dark and stormy night
And the rain came down in torrents
And the Captain said to the mate
'Bill - spin us a yarn'
So Bill began...

It was a dark and stormy night
And the rain came down in torrents
And the Captain said to the mate
'Bill - spin us a yarn'
So Bill began...

I'm still waiting to hear how it ends... 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Never mind the Olympics - Anyone for bowls?

My sort of sport

'Were you any good at sport?' a friend asked recently as I sat in front of the TV doing my bit to support Team GB.  'It's not something that runs in the family,'  I replied, shaking my head sadly. Then I remembered my grandfather,  James R Brown, a member of his school football team, who later  excelled at bowls, winning a coveted trophy  in 1936. When I was a child he taught me how to play bowls - at Beau Sejour in Guernsey where that  win took place.

 St Sampsons School Guernsey, 1907.
J.Brown (far right)

Later, his son, sports journalist  Harry Brown worked at the Football League in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, and edited their first official hard back book published in the late sixties.

Then again, I could mention my elder daughter who excelled at tennis, or her sister who captained the school hockey team, but they might never speak to me again.

So the answer's still the same - I was no good at sport - but I might just remember someone who was...