It’s not every day you get the chance to meet a hero or heroine in the flesh. One of my favourite writers and a writing role model for me is the wonderful Marian Keyes and, on a dark and rainy evening, I headed for the bright lights and warmth of our local Waterstone to meet her- actually hear her speak.
It was lovely to mingle with other fans, have a glass of wine and and buy my copy of her latest book, ‘The Break’. We were all glad that she was generous enough to travel to the far North to chat to her readers in Newcastle.
It’s a risky business, meeting some one you have admired for a long time. Would she live up to my expectations? You can all breathe a sigh of relief – she did not disappoint. Not one bit. She was as small and sparkly as I imagined and the Irish lilt was as strong as you hear on her vlogs and TV. She talked about everything, from nail ‘farnish’, to boots to Peppa pig sweets, as well as her new book and she was lovely. She even brought Himself along with her and other fans of Marian will know how important he is to Marian’s life.
But Marian is more than all that lovely stuff I have mentioned. She also talks about the tough things in life like bereavement and depression and how young women can’t have abortions in Ireland because of the eight amendment of the Irish constitution. She stood up to this and became part of the ‘Artists’ Campaign to repeal the eighth amendment’. Marian Keyes picks her battles and this is a worthy one.
Her new book ‘The Break’ touches on these topics and, during the evening, she didn’t shy away from any questions. Her new book also has a rather attractive Geordie (male) in it . Her Newcastle readers are in for a treat! I reviewed The Break for net galley and gave it 5 stars on Amazon but if there were 6 it would have got them. It’s a brilliant read. You can read a full review on my book review page.
You’ll already see why she is a good role model for a new writer like me but my main reason for aspiring to be like her is her determination, she’s back on form after crippling depression, and her delightful unique voice. You know Marian’s work because of that Irish voice that tells a good tale and broaches the subjects we all worry ourselves about yet can still be laugh out loud funny at times..
I want to write books that allow readers to escape and laugh then cry with the characters. Isn’t that far easier to say than to do? I found that out when a wrote ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’. That’s why Marian is my role model and I’m so glad I met her. If Marian Keyes can recover from alcoholism, face up to depression, write wonderful novels and travel all around the country to meet her readers, she can be one of my role models for life not just for writing.
I hope I’ve got you thinking about a special meeting with a hero that you’ve had or, if not, I hope I’ve tempted you to plan one. I’d love to hear who you admire and why.
You can reveal all on here or I chat on Facebook Chrissie Bradshaw Author and tweet @ChrissieBeee
It’s hard to believe that A Jarful of Moondreams is one year old and on sale for 99p. What a year! It’s been full of highs and lows and lots of learning. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it differently? Of course! I made mistakes in publishing and promoting and learned from them. If I didn’t think I could do it all differently and more successfully the second time around I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Writing and publishing a novel is like carrying and giving birth to an infant. It’s full of anxiety as well as joy and producing the finished novel can be a long and painful process that other writers and imaginative readers can appreciate.
Immediately after you write The End there is a niggling worry. Will another follow swiftly or will it be an only novel for years and years like Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird?’ Like a parent, a writer just doesn’t know for sure.
I think the most exciting time is when you finally present your months of hard labour to the reading world with a fanfare of tweets, blogs and giveaways. You want everyone to say kind things and most people do. The relief!
Gradually, the initial buzz of interest lulls and leaves you feeling unsure and full of questions. Will your newbie grow legs and run? Will it be a crawler that sells oh so slowly? You help it along and continue to post proud parent pics and news as you start on book 2.
Book 2 ( title to be revealed soon!) grabs your attention and you’re immersed in that until you look up and your published novel is a year old. If you’re lucky, the second is now ready to be delivered to the reading world and some readers are eagerly waiting for it. How can you cope with more than one leaving the nest?
This is exactly where I am now and of course I’ll cope. I have so many role models who have a shelf crammed with books in their name and if they can let go time and time again then I’ll certainly try.
Can I pause first though? Before I excitedly push book 2 put into the world, I just want to take a moment to enjoy my first book. I’d like to bask in the pleasure of knowing that readers enjoyed my novel and told others about it and it got great reviews. I need to let my debut know that it’s not forgotten.
‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ hasn’t been a great earner but it has brought me a wealth of knowledge and I’m proud of how it’s still selling for 99p this summer. I’m keeping my faith in its storytelling power and sending it on its way for another year.
I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to fill a shelf with my books but there will always be a special place in my heart for novel number one striving to find its place on your e-book shelf for 99p
Let’s look at frustration – Does expectation feed frustration?
I want to write brilliant novels that readers want to read and I want someone, an expert, to take the publishing part out of my hands. It’s a big ask, I know but I’m asking.
The writing frustration comes and goes and, when the writing goes well, it’s a feeling like no other. After the hard work that went into publishing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when someone tells me that they will do the publishing part. Frustration be gone!
I’ve read that the best way to deal with frustration is to focus on the outcome I want instead of the obstacles in my way and that makes sense to me. I’m in this for the long haul and the success of publishing of my novels will seem even sweeter after scaling a series of obstacles. Those obstacles? They are just stepping stones to my goal.
I try to focus on the right things – the possibilities rather than the problems. Whoever observed that if you chase two rabbits, you’ll lose both didn’t know the tenacity of an author. Only two? Writing involves taking time to promote book one and my writing , to complete re -writes on book two and to plan book three. Believe me, having my head in three different novels takes focus and I’m not letting any of them get away.
Playing with words is fun and, as a writer, I do this every day. The other fun part of my writing life is talking about my writing journey to readers who might just buy my novel and using social media to network to readers and fellow authors. I’ve learnt that 4 and 5 star reviews from readers who have paid for your book and enjoyed it are the best reward for sharing your work with readers and that’s a good thing because new writers rarely make a living from their novels. The fabulous leg photo I used above was sent to me via Facebook by a reader who was reading this on holiday. It made my day.
Making my novel better is fun. Novel two has had an excellent critique full of great advice from the wonderful RNA new writers’ scheme. I’m enjoying a final redraft and revision of the novel before pitching it to agents and publishers this summer.
Winning awards is fun! OK only one award so far. The highlight of my writing year was to receive the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy at the Romantic Novelists’ Association gala dinner last July. I’ll be sad to return it from its pride of place on my sideboard but there is a future winner who will give it loving care next year.
My first pitches for novel two will be at the Romantic Novelists’ Conference this July. Wish me luck!????
What’s the title? How did the pitches go? I’m looking forward to writing about this in my next blog . It will be all about the book and its reception. (Note that I don’t say it’s rejection????)
So you’re not a super juggler? Relax, I’ve found out that you can still have it all- just not at the same time so don’t beat yourself up about dropping something every now and then. Better still, relax with your drink of choice -tea or a chilled wine for me – and escape into a book or take time out to dream up the life you’re after.
Just what does your ideal life story look like? Do you ever let yourself dream about it? I pictured being at the top of a successful career, in a happy marriage, with a child, money to travel, time to exercise, time with family and friends and time to write a novel or two. I’d be so content with some of that life.
I couldn’t do it all at once and I didn’t try. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and I find that, if ever I take on too much, I enjoy none of it. My head can’t be several places at once and my juggling becomes clumsy. I’ve experienced that a few times and I’m sure you have too so let’s be kinder to ourselves and remember it’s a LIFE story. Some parts of it will take time.
That’s not to say we should forget our long-held dreams. That almost happened to me until I got a very loud wake up call.
In my late twenties and thirties, I juggled my career with being a single parent and all ideas of finding my ideal man or travelling and writing had to be put on hold. My energy was used up with the school run, a challenging job, after school activities and then more work so even exercise was put on the back burner for a while. Luckily, I loved my job and loved my daughter so I was tired but happy and fulfilled. The childhood years are precious and we can’t grab them back even though we sometimes think the summer holidays are neverending!
The man that I loved enough to marry came along by surprise a few years later and, after years of being a singleton, having a partner was a wonderful change. My days were full and life sped along at an alarming rate. Holidays already? Another birthday? It can’t be Christmas! You’ll know the feeling. I visited some amazing places with my husband, my daughter was independent and I still had time to catch up with exercise and writing in the years to come.
A challenge from my sister meant that I took up running. I wasn’t good at it or anywhere near as speedy as I’d like to be but I enjoyed it and managed 5 K, then 10k and then a half marathon. While I was running, I’d sort out life’s niggles or make up stories. I still didn’t get round to writing them down. The Great North Run gave me such a buzz. I felt like life had treated me well and I almost had it all. I promised myself I’d even start writing that book one day soon. In the pic below I’m running with my sister for Bliss, premature babies charity.
If you’re waiting , thinking something must come along to take the wind right out of my sails, you’re right. It was a bloody great storm in my G cup. I felt healthy and happy but, although I was surprised when I found out I had an aggressive breast cancer, I didn’t ever think ‘why me?’ Why not when it happens to 1 in 8 of us women? I felt numb as I prepared for the treatments and prepared for the worst scenario. Would my time be far shorter than I’d ever imagined?
As I went through a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and baldness, then daily sessions of radiotherapy, I began feeling much older than my years. I set about writing a bucket list. I’m good at writing lists but not so great at carrying them out. This was the most important list I’d written.
I thought about writing and the pleasure it gave me so that went on the list. I thought I would quite like to do a lot of things but nothing compared to writing. My real regret was not ever getting down to writing those novels in my head so my bucket list was short. Write a bloody novel!
As soon as my ‘chemo fog’ lifted, I got to work on an idea I had been playing around with for far too long. Had I been afraid I wasn’t up to the task? I could write better than I could run and I’d managed a half marathon so what was there to fear? I didn’t care if my novel was published or not as long as I finished it. That was my promise to myself.
It took almost three years, I was still juggling family, holidays and treatments remember, but at last I typedTHE END and that was a wonderful day. Soon afterwards, I went off to France with my husband and our dog for a month and felt on top of the world.
I came to earth with a bump when we got home and a letter lay in wait asking me to go to the breast cancer clinic. This time, I have to admit I did think why me a second time? I was angry that my breasts had let me down again, especially as I was taking tablets meant to keep stray cancer cells at bay that gave me chronic joint pain. I thought long and hard about treatments and opted for a double mastectomy. I wanted to try my best to live and do all I could to prevent hearing that news a third time.
As I was recovering from my mastectomy and reconstruction, I took solace in the fact that I’d finished one novel and started another. I was now a writer so I decided to put myself out there and get my first novel published. Would it be any good? My daughter and sisters thought so, my husband believed in me, but they weren’t the big wide world.
I sent my manuscript to the Romantic Novelists’ Association because I’d become a member and they critique new writer’s novels. My professional reader liked it and read most of it in one sitting. That was enough to encourage me to send it out to several agents. Agents do get a lot of manuscripts and they are notoriously slow in getting back to writers but it was so hard waiting and then being told that the novel was well written but not quite right for their lists.
What should a woman who wants it all do? After two months, I decided to find a publisher myself. I didn’t have the time to wait around and see whether my first novel would fit an agent’s list. I believe that we help to make our own dreams come true. My book, A JARFUL of MOONDREAMS is out there now and proof of that. Yes, I found a publisher and that’s why I can say that I think you CAN have it all.
Knowing what I’ve gone through before having the courage to finish and publish a novel, you’ll understand my pleasure when I received the Elizabeth Goudge writing award for 2016 at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ conference. What a surprise and boost to my writing confidence. I look at the silver trophy and think, I’m a writer.
I couldn’t have it all at the same time but, if I have any tip to pass on, it is this –
Don’t try to juggle everything at once but don’t procrastinate and take TOO long either. Remember, I was almost too late!
Going after your dreams is about pacing yourself and enjoying each of life’s events enough to keep you going when the bad times happen. I’m in great health, for now, and I don’t ever take that for granted. I’ve changed the day job to writing. It doesn’t bring in a load of money but it’s fun and I’m writing my second novel.
My debut novel, ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ follows three characters- a mother as she approaches her fiftieth birthday, her career obsessed daughter who is in her thirties and her younger teenage daughter. The story takes the Moon family through a turbulent summer when they are all chasing their dreams and colliding into love. The sisters don’t get along at all and we find out why when they are thrown together for the summer. Their mother decides to go travelling and holds onto the hope that they will bond while she is away. Family secrets spill out that change all of their lives and make it a summer to remember. If, like me, you love a good plot that involves modern women and their relationships and has an element of romance, this could be just the novel for you.
Writing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ has been my escape from troubling times so, although it tells the story of an eventful summer, it has to have an upbeat ending. Reading is all about escaping for a little while isn’t it? If you want to read about another family’s dreams and find out how they captured them and you think this might interest you, here is the link.