I’m always fascinated to discover how people end up as published authors.
After all, it’s not like there’s a clear, well-trodden career path, such as there is to become a vet, for instance, or an astronaut. Newspapers don’t advertise vacant book-writing positions in their careers section. You’re not going to get headhunted for a job as an author. Life may present you with the opportunity to become one, but more often than not it takes a long and complicated journey to get there.
For me, that journey began back in 2002. I was working in TV as a production manager, a job that primarily involves budgets and bossiness, and since I wasn’t very good at either I knew it was time for a career change. I had wanted to be a writer since falling under the spell of The Lord of The Rings as I child, so in a moment of uncharacteristic bravery I quit my job and went to work at a celebrity magazine.
I loved being a journalist. I was writing every day, meeting fascinating people and getting paid for it: most of the time it didn’t even feel like work. I remember being flown to New York to interview Bon Jovi, arriving at my luxury downtown digs and wondering how the hell I was managing to get away with it.
The only slight niggle was that my skill as a writer was proving far less important than my ability to actually get the story. The job of a celebrity journalist is 90 per cent hustle and 10 per cent writing, but my talents, such as they were, lay in putting words together: I was useless at networking, chasing scoops and all the other stuff that makes a brilliant journalist.
To flex my writing muscles, I started work on a novel (set in the world of celebrity magazines, naturally) in my spare time, but I soon discovered that writing fiction and journalism are as different as preparing a soufflé and mayonnaise – same main ingredient, totally different techniques – and I never got past the first chapter. I would have to stick with the mayo.
It was shortly after returning to work from maternity leave, however, that life lobbed me another curveball. An opportunity arose for me to ghostwrite a style and fashion book for Katie Price and, as my editor understandably wasn’t keen to give me time off work to write 50,000 words on pink legwarmers, I took another leap of faith and left the magazine.
Since then ghostwriting has led me on some fantastic adventures. I was fortunate enough to work with Mary Berry on her autobiography and have very happy memories of sitting in her kitchen as she chopped, stirred and simmered whatever we were having for lunch that day while sharing her memories. Then there were the sunny afternoons spent in Jo Wood’s living room, listening to her eye-popping tales of touring with the Rolling Stones while trying not to gawp – or blush.
Fast-forward to 2014: I was pregnant again, plus all was quiet on the ghostwriting front. The time was right to have another stab at the novel. This time, however, I had a much better idea how to go about it thanks to my experience ghostwriting two novels for a TV presenter – a learning curve so steep it was practically vertical.
By the time my son was born I had finished a third of Just Haven’t Met You Yet; the rest of it was written in the blur that was the first months of his life. Given the choice, I would have preferred not to write my debut novel while delirious from sleep deprivation, but there are those people who painstakingly plan their careers and those who fly by the seat of their pants and somehow, eventually, by some miracle, end up where they want to be.
I’m in the latter camp, obviously. In fact, I’ve yet to met another writer who isn’t.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet is out on February 11th, pre-order your copy here.
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