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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…



Gwen Kirkwood said...

That is a great blog. Thank you both. I have learned a lot about your journey into being a novelist, Linda and the content is quite different to the interview you will be doing on my blog.
Good luck with No Turning Back when it comes out next year.

Linda Mitchelmore said...

Thanks, Gwen, for taking the time to look....and thank you Marilyn for guesting m e and having such a lovely blog...:)

Lesley Cookman said...

Lovely post, Linda, and thank you Marilyn. Remember our launch at The Groucho, Linda? What a long time ago that seems.

Guernsey Girl said...

Thanks, Linda, for being such a lovely guest and to Gwen and Lesley for your kind comments.

Kelly said...

Fabulous guest post on an excellent blog. Really enjoyed reading about your road to publication, Linda. Thanks for sharing your experience. Look forward to reading To Turn Full Circle, and good luck with your new novel.

Linda Mitchelmore said...

Thanks very much for popping by Kelly and Lesley - and yes, I remember The Groucho well - the start of wonderful things for me..:)

clo said...

I didn't realise what a journey it was from writing a novel to getting it published. Thanks for sharing your experiences I'm sure it gives hope to those still waiting for that break!