I suppose my journey to being published started with my love of reading. Stories undoubtedly shaped me into the person I am today.
They raised my aspirations, broadened my horizons and gave me the gift of imagination. Because stories have always been so important to me I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I love telling them as much as I love reading and editing them.
Even as a child, I always knew that I wanted to write a book one day and the idea for my debut novel came from a collection of stories that I read in my childhood called A Thousand and One Nights.
It always irked me that by the end of A Thousand and One Nights, the sultan, who has been busily beheading his wives with impunity, gets a happy ending. That didn’t seem fair to me. I wondered whether there might be a different version of this story and that was when the idea for the Book of Wonders was sewn. However, it would be many years until I found the confidence to actually write a novel.
In part, that confidence came from editing other people’s books. I have been a senior commissioning editor at Oxford University Press Children’s Books for nearly five years and previous to that I worked at Working Partners and Penguin.
On my path to publication, being an editor and being an author has been rather entwined. You see, helping authors to untangle knotty plots or suggesting how a writer might lose the telling and show the showing is great practice for one’s own writing.
During my career, I have been exposed to writers who have had an extraordinary work ethic and this too has been integral to my approach to writing. Dedication is as key to success as a good idea and finding your voice.
So how did I get my first book published? I, like many aspiring writers who have written a novel, sent out my manuscript FAR TOO EARLY. I was so excited that I’d actually finished a novel that I just wanted to get it out there. Unfortunately, the book really wasn’t ready and I ended up receiving several of those dreaded rejection letters back. Funnily enough, I ended up coming full circle and sending my manuscript to the agent who was first on my list at the beginning of the process. The first time, my book hadn’t made it past her assistant [although I got a rather sweet rejection] but the second time round she read the manuscript for The Book of Wonders and asked me in for a meeting. When she asked whether I was interested in her representing me I felt like I had been given a golden ticket.
We worked hard on the script and sent it out in the UK. The Book of Wonders ended up at several acquisition meetings but fell at the final hurdle and ultimately didn’t get picked up. However, the story didn’t end there. I am lucky to have an amazing agency behind me in the US. They sent out The Book of Wonders to a select few publishers and I was delighted when Harper Collins came back and made an offer for my book!
Getting a book published is such a roller-coaster of emotions. There are times when you will doubt yourself. There are times when you will feel ten feet tall. Then there are the best times of all when a child reader who has loved your book takes the time to write to you and you are reminded of the child you once were and how books changed your life.