Postcards From a Stranger was the first book I published under my own name. It came out in June 2017 as a self-published novel. It flew up the kindle chart and within a month I'd had offers from three major publishing houses. Later that year, I signed a three book deal with Amazon Publishing. My path to publication is that fabled, dream-come-true story - self-published author is picked up by a publisher and goes on to have huge success.
Since then I have signed four more contracts with the same publisher for a further eleven books. I have sold around 1.3 million copies and have been number 1 in various kindle stores around the world eight times. I've also been shortlisted for a major book prize (which I didn't win!)
Whilst this looks like an overnight success, it took me a while to reach the point where I was ready to publish Postcards. I began writing it, I think, in 2015 and to start with it was simply Cara's story, written in the third person past tense. This was how I'd written the previous four books so it made sense to do the same again. But when I got to the end it felt too simplistic. I wanted to know more about the other characters and particularly Annie. Why had she left her children and how did she feel about that? A mother who leaves her children was, after all, the catalyst for the whole book.
So I went back to the start and wove Annie's story through the present day chapters. I also wrote a storyline for Cara's brother Daniel too and gave him his own chapters. This version was much richer and felt more like the book I wanted to write. But it still wasn't right.
Next I experimented with Cara's voice. It felt too distant that she was speaking in the third person so I rewrote all her chapters into first person. And then I changed the tense as well. Now I felt much more connected to her as a character and it made sense to me that she would tell her story like this as opposed to Annie whose chapters, set in the past, were written in the third person past tense.
Finally I had something that felt closer to a book I might be brave enough to publish. I thought about sending it to agents. I'd sent it to one when it was just Cara's story and got a kind but firm rejection. I had no desire to do that again. Who wants to hear that their book isn't good enough?! So I decided to publish myself.
There then followed many months of study as I learned how to do that. It was hard. I had never used a computer before and nothing came naturally but I just kept going. There were a lot of tears when I just couldn't understand things everyone else found so obvious. My husband was very patient with me but I was determined to learn it for myself.
The best decision I made fairly early on in the process was to pay an editor to review the manuscript. Now that seems obvious but at the time it felt like a huge step. It wasn't cheap to do but I decided that if I wanted writing to be more than just a hobby then I needed to invest in myself. That editor gave me enough confidence in my book to go ahead and publish it. This is what Postcards From a Stranger looked like when it first came out. I still really like that cover.
And the rest, as they say . . . The book has now sold well over a quarter of a million copies. The version that you can buy today no longer contains Daniels' storyline as my publishers decided it made the book too long. There are also a few of the early self-published copies with a repeated chapter because I got the formatting wrong!
I'm not sure it would be my favourite story but it will always hold a special place in my heart as being the first book that I felt brave enough to release into the world and which then launched my career as a full-time author.
If you're embarking on writing a novel or have one almost finished then I would say press on. Get it done and then see what happens next. Because dreams really can come true.
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