I’m a university drop-out – I’d always dreamed of being a writer as a kid, so going to uni to study English Literature seemed like a natural stepping stone into that career. But once I got to uni I had a major crisis of confidence. I grew up on a council estate and started to believe that people like me didn’t belong in the middle class world of writing, or even university. So I dropped out and gave up on my dream, thankfully only temporarily. I’ve now had over 30 books published and I love sharing my story, as I’m living proof that you should never let your background hold you back from pursuing your dreams.
My first writing job was grovelling apology letters – After I dropped out of uni I got a job in the complaints department for a frozen food company. When I wasn’t dealing with ragey phone calls from customers I had to write grovelling letters to them, containing lines like: ‘I’m so sorry you found a cockroach / dead mouse / severed finger in your frozen peas’. The job was so soul destroying it inspired me to rekindle my book writing dream, so every cloud has a silver lining!
Losing my first book deal was the best thing that happened to me – After my first four books had been published I was dropped by my publisher for disappointing sales figures. I’d just become a single mum so it really did feel like the end of my world. But actually it was an exciting new beginning. I started working as a writing coach and editor, which I loved, and self-published a novel, which I wrote purely for the love of it. It was so liberating to be free from the pressure of keeping a publisher happy and taught me the important lesson that you should always make love your motivation rather than fear.
I won a national book award for my self-published novel – One day I decided on a whim to enter my self-published novel for a national book award. I didn’t think it even stood a chance of being accepted as it was self-published, so I was delighted to get an email telling me it had been entered for the award. I was even more delighted a few months later, when I learned it had made it to the final longlist of ten. When I found out it had been shortlisted I had to go and have a little celebratory dance in the toilet at work. To get into the final five, with the other books all being from established and best-selling authors, was as good as winning to me. So when my novel actually won the award it was beyond my wildest dreams. The award re-ignited my career and I’ve had over 30 books published since. Proof again that you should never give up on your dream!
I’m a ghost – As well as writing books under my own name I work as ghostwriter, helping celebrities, business people and people with inspirational stories put their ideas into writing. It’s a fascinating strand to my career as I get an insight into some really different worlds and get to meet some really interesting people.
I love moving house – I know it’s meant to be as stressful as death and divorce but I love it! I’ve moved eight times in the last 20 years. One time when I wanted a fresh start I put a pin in a map – or hovered my cursor over Google maps – and picked a place I’d never even been to before. I’d moved there in three weeks and ended up having six lovely years there. I’m guessing my son has inherited my wanderlust as this year he moved to Moscow!
I got married in Arkansas – My grandma was born in Chicago and I have a lot of family in the States so it’s always felt like my second home. When I was young my grandma told me I ought to marry an American so I could get to live there. I ended up marrying an Englishman after my Grandma had sadly passed away but we did get married in America in her honour. The marriage didn’t last but I’ll always treasure my memories from such a special day, surrounded by my Grandma’s American cousins.
I have two drawers full of letters from my dad – Ever since I moved out of home when I was 21 my dad has written to me regularly. His letters are always full of words of wisdom so I’ve kept every single one of them and I now have two drawers full. Any time I’m feeling down or in need of inspiration I open a drawer and pull one out at random at it never fails to give me a lift.
I have a Russian middle name – I’m ashamed of this but when I was a kid I never admitted to having my middle name – Raissa. I already got teased enough at school for having an Irish, and unpronounceable, first name so it was an exercise in damage limitation! But once I’d grown up I reclaimed my middle name with pride. I was named after a favourite writer of my dad’s called Raissa Maritain, and I’ve had a lot of fun recently finding out about my namesake.
I was my boyfriend’s neighbour, years before I met him – When my boyfriend and I were on our first date we discovered that once upon a time, years before we met, we’d actually lived a few doors along from each other on the same street! I took this as a definite sign that we were meant to meet.
I never wanted to write a tell-all memoir. When I lived in London, I started a blog about food. Gradually, I began weaving in lessons about love. But I was sneaky, not revealing that my posts about my favorite high-street hot chocolate, for instance, were really about a guy I was dating. It was all smoke and mirrors. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to write a good book, I had to get naked—literally... to read more click HERE