As a child, I was constantly told off for two things: having my nose in a book and living in a dream world. Things haven't changed much since then, but at least in writing I've found a use for my runaway imagination.
I live in London, but my other favourite places to be are the highlands of Scotland and the English countryside on a summer’s afternoon. I love cooking, good food and anything cinnamon-flavoured. Of course, I still can’t keep away from a good book, or a good movie—especially romances—but only if I'm stocked up with tissues, because I know I'll need them before the end, be it happy or sad.
My road to publication was more of a rollercoaster ride than an uphill struggle. It was rapid, exhilarating and sometimes I felt completely upside-down and out of control.
After writing seriously for about a year I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, mainly to take advantage of their wonderful New Writers’ Scheme. Each year unpublished writers can send in a manuscript which gets a critique from a published author.
I had a story to send in, freshly finished and all bright and shiny: ‘Blind-Date Marriage’, aimed at the new Romance line for Harlequin Mills & Boon. It was my first completed attempt at a novel and I was totally petrified about the critique. ‘All I want,’ I said to my husband, ‘is for someone to say I don’t stink too badly and that maybe I have potential.’ To take my mind off it all, I also entered a first chapter competition jointly run by M&B and the New Writers’ Scheme.
The short version of the story is that both the readers who saw my manuscript really liked it and seemed very excited about wanting to send it on directly to the M&B offices in
Now, I may have day-dreamed about instant publishing success, but that didn’t mean I seriously thought it was actually going to happen. I don’t expect to be collecting an Oscar for best actress any time soon, but a girl can live in hope, can’t she?
The nail-biting began. I stopped sleeping properly and began staking out my inbox. When the message finally arrived, I missed it. The editor who had seen my story dropped me an email one evening saying she wanted to ‘touch base’. What a wonderfully vague term, I thought, when I found it at 5am the next morning after yet another sleepless night. I emailed right back saying I would be at home and settled down to wait—only three inches away from the phone at all times.
At the phone rang. By this time I was convinced I had slipped into a parallel universe. The editor from HM&B told me they loved my book and wanted to buy it. The whole situation seemed so surreal by then that I became horribly calm and collected as I chatted to my new editor. She must have thought I was seriously weird not to be whooping and jumping up and down.
That night was the RNA’s Winter Party. Not only was my sale announced, but I discovered I had also won the first chapter contest. My memory of that evening is of smiling so much my mouth hurt, talking to lots of people whose names I instantly forgot and not having enough hands to hold congratulatory glasses of wine with.
The rollercoaster is still taking me up and down but, a year on, I’m learning to do more than just cling on and scream. I’ve now sold two more books to the Romance line and my first book, ‘Blind-Date Marriage’ won the RNA’s New Writers’ Award and is being released this week in both North America (as a Silhouette Romance) and the UK. I shall be the lady staking out my local bookshop, camera in hand, to catch the moment it hits the shelves—unless the manager decides I look shady and boots me out first, that is.
Fiona's first book BLIND DATE MARRIAGE is already available in the UK and hits bookshelves in North America as her one and only Silhouette Romance mid-month.