When I was a girl, I always had my nose in a book. The Saturday morning trip to my local library was the highlight of my week. I was no good at sport, or anything that required any kind of co-ordination, but my imagination could soar!
After secondary school, it seemed natural to go on to university, so that I could spend more time reading. I took a joint honours degree in English and Philosophy. I was just as fascinated by the lives of authors and the times they lived in, as the stories they wrote.
But what did I want to do with my own life…?
Skip forward about fifteen years. I have married, moved to
But I spend almost as much time daydreaming (with myself as plucky heroine) as I do devouring as many novels as I can get my hands on. What if I wrote some of these vague plots down? Would they work as complete novels? Would anyone want to read them?
To begin with, the answer was NO! No, from publishers, and no from agents. Maybe, I thought, I just wasn’t any good. Maybe I should just give up. The only problem with that decision was that my imagination refused to stop. Ideas for stories kept right on coming. So, I thought, perhaps it might be a good idea to learn how to write. I had studied writers, but not the actual craft of writing.
I signed up for a correspondence course. And read a very interesting piece about researching the market. I had never realized that each publisher specialized in one type of fiction. Or that they might be looking for something that fit in with their brand image. I took on board the suggestion that I should read a dozen or so category romances, to get the “feel” of them. And got hooked! Why had I never read anything from Mills and Boon before? They were publishing exactly the kind of stories I was already making up, and trying without success to sell elsewhere.
I sent in four manuscripts before I got anything other than a standard rejection – two to the Modern strand, and two to the Historical. I couldn’t believe it when I opened the thin envelope, braced for my fifth rejection, to see that the single page was good quality cream paper, containing more than just that one dreaded phrase. They had liked the first three chapters, and if I had finished the manuscript, they would like to have a look at it.
This was a huge leap forward for me. A publisher was actually going to read more than the first three chapters before rejecting it! It was six months before I got a reply. And then it was another horribly thin envelope. Oh, well, I sighed as I opened it, at least they might give me some idea where I was going wrong, and how I could put it right.
But no…they liked it! On the whole. Could I just think about making a few revisions? I looked at the novel again in the light of what they had pointed out, and realized they had picked up some weak spots. I told the temp agency I was currently working for that I wouldn’t be available for the next two weeks, and got stuck in to my novel. I was determined to get it back to them quickly, to prove how professional I could be. I knew that if they took me on, Mills and Boon would want more than one novel a year from me. But after I had emailed it off, I went into a complete panic. Had I rushed it? Should I have been more careful? It was too late…I had blown my big chance.
And then, after what felt like forever, an email popped into my inbox. Could my editor phone me to talk about the book? What did that mean? Was it a positive sign? Surely, if they hadn’t like what I’d done, they would have just sent one of those letters?
I can’t tell you much about that phone call because I was in such a dither. Trying to sound like a sane, sensible person they could rely on to produce work of a professional standard, whilst just wanting to run round the room shouting YES, YES YES! Because they did want to offer me a contract. And wanted to know if I had anything else ready to send in. I did, because the way I had learned to deal with my earlier rejections was to start immediately on the next novel. Suggestions for revisions for that one came within a month. And queries about what I might write next.
So now I am a novelist! That first one, the one I was convinced was going to be rejected every step of the way, will be out in paperback in September, under my pen name of Annie Burrows. It is a Regency romance, called “His Cinderella Bride.” In February 2008, my second will be out in paperback. It is set in early Tudor times, and is called “My Lady Innocent.” The novel which they are considering at the moment, should be out in an anthology to celebrate Mills and Boons centenary year.
And later on this morning, I am going to go out into the garden, with my pen and some paper, and begin to plot out novel number four. I don’t know what it will be called yet, but I know the hero very well. He is an embittered, crippled ex-soldier, with no fortune, and no future. He has just one chance at independence from the half brother he resents. If he can persuade a girl of good family and reputation to marry him…
So next month, you all must go out and buy Annie's first novel HIS CINDERELLA BRIDE (how gorgeous is that title???) Or you can pick up a copy at Amazon.co.uk right now!