On paper, my first year as a published author was not a success. I ended 2021 having had a handful of people (mostly friends and family) read my book, and I’d made enough mistakes to fill a book of their own. I ended the year knowing 2022 would be make or break. If I carried on the way I’d been going, my life as an author would be a very expensive hobby, impossible to justify to my family, despite their unwavering support.
But I wouldn’t go back and change that first year. It sounds trite to say, but every mistake I made (and some of them were HUGE) was a learning opportunity. I took those failures, and resolved not to repeat them. Inevitably I’ve made a whole new set of mistakes, but less of them, and wouldn’t life be boring if we got everything right first time?
I began 2022 with the knowledge Queenie of Norwich would soon be released. The thought terrified me. In sharing Queenie’s story I’d made some risky choices. Would readers make it past the first few chapters? Would the harsh reality of Queenie’s early life put people off sticking with her as she overcame those barriers? Would people hate the fact I’d written the book in first person present tense… etc… etc… etc…
When all those doubts surfaced, I took comfort in the fact that the book had some wise decisions behind it. I’d worked with an editor, I’d employed a proof reader, I’d had a number of people feed back on early drafts and the book felt much more of a team effort. Still, as release day approached, I had many sleepless nights.
After Queenie of Norwich was released, I encountered a stroke of luck. Given my total lack of understanding of how to use Instagram, I was amazed when a young local journalist contacted me on there. The result was a double page spread in the Norwich Evening News, the EDP, and a long interview on BBC Radio Norfolk. Queenie was off to a good start.
What followed was months of trying to wrap my head around advertising and how, exactly, do you get a book in front of readers in the first place? As the first reviews came in, and I had faith that Queenie’s story was one people wanted to hear, I doubled down on my attempts to share her story with new audiences.
Summer rolled round and an email came in from Steve at Bittern Books. Would I be interested in working with them to get Queenie of Norwich into more bookshops? Of course, I jumped at the chance. Seeing my book in bookshops is a dream come true and I'm so grateful to Bittern Books, and the bookshops who are stocking 'Queenie'.
September saw the release of The House of Many Lives, a departure from my usual Historical Fiction but a book I thoroughly enjoyed writing. With both releases out of the way, I focussed on getting my next book finished, starting another, and taking as many free courses as I could to better understand the multitude of skills needed to be a self-published author. I also began dipping my toe in the world of audiobooks. I’ve ended the year passing the half way mark with the audio book of Queenie of Norwich and it’s been an absolute pleasure to record at the lovely Morvil Studios in Bodmin. I’ll see how this audiobook shapes up, and all being well, I’ll be working on my new book The Wives Left Behind next!
As the year draws to a close, I feel overwhelmed by how much has happened this year, in particular the love shown for Queenie’s story. Being such a personal story to me, it never ceases to amaze me when readers get in touch to say they enjoyed, leave a review, or tell their friends about the book. Hopefully I’ll write many more books over the years, but I suspect Queenie of Norwich will always remain the book I feel the most personal attachment to, she was my great-grandmother after all!
As I look ahead to next year, it’s with a confidence I didn’t feel at the start of this year. I’ve still got so much to learn about writing, about self-publishing, but as someone with a stubborn streak, this is a challenge I’m excited to embrace.
Writing can be a lonely life at times, but I’m incredibly lucky to have the support of my family (who are rewarded with pizza nights each time I hit an author goal), friends, and the wider community of readers who have supported me this year. Every one of you makes my work as an author so rewarding, and I’ll always be grateful. Happy New Year!