It was never my ambition to write novels, let alone publish or even sell them. It sounds very clichéd but I often have to pinch myself as a reminder that this is really happening.
I am a scientist by profession. Not that the two things are mutually exclusive but having studied science at Edinburgh University a long time ago (when perms, dungarees and Dexy’s Midnight Runners were in fashion), I never imagined that one day I would be a writer of romantic novels.
I published my first novel, A Sorry Affair in July of last year and I still haven’t owned up to being a writer. I carry it around with me like a guilty secret, well, more like a guilty pleasure actually. I get away with it by pretending I’m working as I tap furiously away into the wee small hours. My husband occasionally remarks that I seem to have a lot of work to do in the evenings, but more often than not he’s completely oblivious, just raising his head enough to remark that my typing is noisy and somewhat distracting.
I’m not entirely sure why I am still keeping it a secret. It makes marketing and publicity very difficult and a bit of a nightmare for my publishers, Austin Macauley, but there’s a part of me which is still not ready to do the big reveal. It’s a bit like The Stig. Great idea but once started, there’s never a right time to unveil the man behind the helmet.
One of the main reasons for concealing my identity initially is that I really didn’t know if my writing was any good, and still don’t if I’m honest, so there is something really unnerving about putting my work on public display. It feels like giving your angst ridden teenage diaries to your family, friends and the general public and asking them not only to read them but to give their opinion on whether they are any good or not. There’s something about people judging me or seeing me in a different light which still feels a little strange.
Writing in secret is not without its difficulties. I work full time and have two children who, like many children of their age, require constant ferrying from one activity to another and a husband who wonders why I spend any ‘spare time’ with my head buried in the laptop. The biggest problem isn’t writer’s block, but physically and mentally finding the time to write.
So far I have written four books and the majority of those have been written on various gadgets – phones, laptops and tablets, whilst waiting to pick up the kids from school or after school activities, between meetings at work, on trains (more of that later), buses, and occasionally whilst waiting in heavy traffic (not legal I know).
When I’m working on a story it tends to flood my mind and I know from experience that there’s a degree of urgency to get it down on paper otherwise it’ll be gone forever. I’ve ‘written’ some great story lines and dialogue in my head and by the time I get near a computer they’re gone. Never to be retrieved. I learned very quickly to have my phone to hand at all times. Sadly, I now keep it by my bedside and have actually reached for it a few times in the middle of the night when sleep evades me because a story is unfolding.
Not that I’m complaining. I love writing. I have discovered a new passion in life and my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. Well that and the fact that I have to work. I can’t even begin to imagine how much I’d get done if I didn’t work. I’d be off to Tuscany to write, research and sample the local wine.
Although I say I never dreamed of becoming a writer, when I look back on it, I’ve always had stories on the go but just never did anything about them. I actually did put pen to paper, quite literally many years ago. An idea for a children’s story came to me suddenly and I wrote constantly for days on scraps of paper which I later transferred onto floppy disc (yes, it really was that long ago) and then I just stopped half way through the story. I naively thought I might pick up it up again when I was on maternity leave…need I say more?
The children did come in handy though and weren’t completely without their uses. Luckily they loved reading and storytelling and particularly loved made up stories, especially if they were featured in them. Being typical children they asked me to repeat them over and over again. I could never remember them with the precision they demanded so eventually for everyone’s sanity I typed them up and formatted them to look like a real book which the children could happily swipe their way through at their leisure (and change as they saw fit). I still have those stories somewhere. Maybe one day…
The real writing started though around 12 years after I had my first child. Finding myself at a loose end, I fired up my computer and instead of aimlessly browsing the internet I started typing. Once I started I couldn’t stop. I found the story unfolding in my head way faster than I could type.
A Sorry Affair is the third book I’ve written but the first I’ve finished to the point it was ready for publication. The idea for the story came to me on a train journey to Edinburgh when I overheard a prosecco-fuelled, animated conversation between a group of women heading for a hen weekend in the capital. They were discussing a close friend who had just discovered, in the cruellest of ways, that her fiancé was cheating on her. They had no sympathy for the adulteress which begged the question, what does it feel like to be the other woman in an affair?
As the story unfolded in my mind I began to consider it from all points of view, but in particular from the other woman’s position. What if you are the ‘other woman’ and are completely unaware that you’re having an affair? I also wondered about the person committing the affair though. What if he really didn’t mean to have an affair?
I immediately began tapping out the story on my mobile phone and wished I was on a much longer train journey.
A Sorry Affair is set in Edinburgh and has been described as “a beautiful story of pain and sadness as the ‘perfect’ engagement unravels: a tale of the unwitting downward spiral and destruction of a perfect relationship: emotional and full of suspense”.
My hope is that the reader will connect with all the characters and in doing so, be faced with the dilemma as to where their own sympathies lie and ask what they would do in a similar situation. The story is really based on the premise that for most people love is rarely black and white but varying shades of grey.
I was asked recently what my goal is for this novel. It’s not as you might imagine to sell as many books as possible but to get a number of really good reviews. Ten good reviews are worth a hundred sales. I won’t be able to retire to Tuscany on them but they would make me immensely happy.
A Sorry Affair is available from amazon or direct from Austin Macauley, www.austinmacauley. com/book/sorry-affair