April 13th is my 1st birthday. Not my real birthday, but my author one, the day when I got the call from Mills & Boon and a lot of things in my life changed. A year ago, my daughter was just starting pre-school and I was looking at jobs after being a stay-at-home mum for six years. Getting the call changed that, as well as quite a few other things too…
1) I write a lot more now. Before getting the call, I always felt that writing was a secret hobby, something I squeezed into my spare time. My family were supportive, but even though M&B had asked for my full manuscript after the initial 3 chapters, writing still felt like a gamble. Now I actively make time for it, even when there’s a giant pile of washing up to do. Somehow I’ve managed to write another two and a half books in the time it took me to write the first one, so hopefully the strategy’s working.
2) I’ve made lots of new friends. It still feels bizarre to me that I now regularly chat online with writers I’ve been reading for years. The romance community – readers, writers and bloggers – is a really friendly one, and it’s great to chat with people about romance and writing without getting strange looks. Dealing with those other people (the ones who don’t like romance and make sure you know it) is becoming easier too. Now I just smile and roll my eyes inwardly because I know there are other people out there who love romance as much as I do.
3) I have a little more confidence. I’m not 100% certain about this, but to prove it to myself I’m going on my local radio station this week and doing my first Book Festival this autumn. I still can’t read my own books without cringing, but I hold on to the hope that no one else notices my ticks like I do.
4) I’ve learnt a lot about publishing. This has been the steepest learning curve. I never realised how important reviews are to authors, or how important it is to have a social media presence (something I didn’t have before) – and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined having my own website! Now I think I’m starting to get the hang of things, but I’m definitely still learning.
So now that it’s (almost) my birthday, I can’t believe that it’s been a whole year. It feels like longer and like yesterday as well. Maybe that’s because I’ve spent so much of my life writing, or trying to, and I’m still constantly amazed that I’m published at all. The two most memorable moments, however, were seeing my book on a shelf for the first time, and getting to visit the Mills & Boon headquarters in London. It wasn’t the giant pink building I’d expected (and honestly hoped for), but it was still amazing, if slightly surreal, to visit. So a HUGE thank you to Mills & Boon, and to everyone who loves historical romance and reads my books as well. I’ll be thinking of you when I eat my birthday cake (which, in case you’re wondering, is going to be Victoria Sponge with lashings of cream and strawberries.) I may only be 1 year old, but I’ll still be raising a glass of something bubbly to you.