My Crazy Year
On the 22nd September 2015 I received a call which changed my life. It was from Harlequin Mills & Boons, offering me a two book contract. The eighteen months before that had been different. I had resigned from my full time teaching job as head of history at a local secondary school and had begun to write part time. It had been a two-year experiment. Two years to see if I could follow my dream and make a serious go of writing, after which, if I failed, I would always have a serious profession to fall back on. For three days a week I did supply teaching, which I hated but it gave me the freedom and the time to write, while the precious months of my experiment sped by and I feared the worst.
But thankfully the call came. They loved That Despicable Rogue and, wonder of wonders, wanted another story, so on that momentous day I quietly ceased being a history teacher. I have not stepped into a classroom since. Instead, I began to write that tricky second book, full time, like a demon. I am sure most people would have been delighted to have received a publishing contract, and although I was, the worry about the second book created far more stress than the situation warranted. What if I was a one book wonder? What if they hated the second book and never offered me another contract? I would have to go back to teaching with my tail between my legs, knowing I had tried and failed to be a proper writer. I wrote Her Enemy at the Altar in six weeks, pressed send and waited for my editor’s judgement in a state of permanent angst.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. That book led to another contract- three this time- and as I wrote the next book the fear of failure began to lift. The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide came out of a random idea whilst watching history documentary entitled A Very British Romance on the BBC. Dr Lucy Worsley did a tiny segment on Georgian etiquette manuals, explaining how they were so obsessed with doing things correctly, hundreds of these books were published giving everyone advice on everything from how to write a letter to how to lay out your puddings at a dinner table. I found the concept hilarious and, as these things so often do, started to mull over the prospect of basing a story around one. My hero, Bennett Montague, has written a bestselling book called ‘The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide to Selecting the Perfect Bride’. It is filled with all of the nonsense typical of the age and completely underestimates women. Each chapter begins with one of his misguided pearls of wisdom. It stood to reason that my heroine Amelia had to be nothing like the perfect bride Bennett is seeking, and inevitably, chaos would ensue.
I loved writing that book. From the first word to the last the story just flowed and not once did I feel stressed about my abilities as a writer. Once again it was finished in six weeks and I began book four straight away. After Miss Bradshaw’s Bought Betrothal I began my first series, ‘The Wild Warriners’, feeling fairly confident that Harlequin Mills and Boon would want to buy the other three stories, and promptly took the entire summer off.
Ever since I was little and my beloved dog Pip died I had wanted another
dog, but with a busy full time job and a husband who travels the world on business, I could never justify having one. Dogs need company and I did not think it was fair to force the poor thing to spend hours and hours every day alone in an empty house. However, now that I was a writer I could. Getting Trevor was a milestone. My gorgeous, good-natured and clumsy Labrador Retriever puppy signalled the official acknowledgment that my teaching career was well and truly over. Whether or not Harlequin offered me another contract, I was now completely committed to earning my living from writing. The alternative was unthinkable. No more long, pointless meetings. No more mountains of marking and no more Ofsted. Besides, I need to be at home because Trevor needs walking twice a day and we need to play tug and fetch, and he likes sleeping at my feet in my little office when I write. I can’t change his routine now!
I celebrated my anniversary as a proper writer by signing a new five book contract with Harlequin and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. A Warriner to Protect Her comes out next May, and will be followed sometime after that by A Warriner to Rescue Her. At the moment, I am working on a standalone Christmas story for December 2017, then I will write the other two Warriner books. I have no idea what the final book of this contract will be. Hopefully, an idea will present itself to me just like it did for my Discerning Gentleman, but I’m not worried about it anymore. I have the best job in the world- what is there to be stressed about?