In the Spotlight New Feature
For the next few weeks I am having guest posts by published authors (and an agent). It’s being called In the Spotlight and will be on Tuesdays. What I hope to have is a mixture of traditionally and self-published authors and I will be contacting some well-known authors to see if they’re happy to answer some questions. I thought this might be useful to you … so today, as promised we kick off with the lovely Lucy who I first met (in the virtual sense) when I critiqued some work for her … she has since gone onto have success and is proof that if you work at your craft … you will get there.
Over to you Lucy …
My name is Lucy Oliver; I’m a short story and romance novel writer. I live with my husband and two young children.
Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first novel published. Have you had other things published first?
Like most writers, I was a reader from an early age and used to write my own stories. When I was a teenager, I wrote three books, none of which will ever see the light the day! I moved onto short stories, but didn’t know what to do with them.
Then during a long period of illness, I discovered the marvellous Womag site with guidelines for magazines. I wrote a story for Take a Break and sent it off. And came back from hospital to find a message from the editor asking to buy it. My first sale, and at a time I was desperately in need of good news. I wasn’t just the ill person anymore, I could write publishable stories.
After a few years of doing short stories, I moved into romance novels. I like writing about people and emotions, which is the basis of romance. They’re very much driven by the characters’ feelings. A publisher asked me to extend my first novella, (which had been critiqued on this page as part of Debz’s Fiction Clinic) so I did, and noticing a pitch by Crimson Romance, sent it in to them as well. They came back straight away for the full manuscript, and then in less than a week, I signed a publishing contract.
Do you have an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?
No, I haven’t even tried. I think I need to sell a few more books yet!
Do you belong to a writing group? Crit group? Have you had someone professionally critique your novel before submitting or publishing? How was that? Would you do it again?
I do belong to a writing group, which I enjoy. Writing is a solitary occupation so it’s good to make friends with fellow writers. Critiquing is very important, I’ve done writing courses, but my tutors just said everything was wonderful, when I knew it wasn’t! A few good professional critiques showing you POV, grammar, sentence construction, etc, are, I believe, essential for a new writer. You need to choose the right person though, with recommendations, else you’re wasting your money. Writing is a skill and needs to be learnt like any other. It’s taken me five years and a lot of hard work to get here.
Did you have your book accepted by a traditional publisher or choose self-publishing? If self-publishing, tell us about that choice, why you made it. If traditional, when you found out, who was the first person you told?
It was taken by a traditional publisher, I didn’t want to self-publish until I had established my name. It’s hard for a new writer to make an impact on the self-publishing market. If you do that route though, I recommend getting your work proofread. I’ve downloaded so many books and found errors.
When I got the offer, the first people I told were my parents, because I was at their house at the time. My husband was away and I couldn’t get hold of him, so Twitter (@writingoliver), Facebook, my writing forum and various people in Australia, all knew before he did. The wonders of the modern world!
What happened next?
I was expecting pages of edits, but when they arrived, there were very few. A tendency for too many commas mainly. There were no structural changes. My editor used track changes on Word, which would have bemused me if I hadn’t had quite a few critiques from Debz, as it’s the same method of editing that she uses. With a few days to get through the edits, it wouldn’t have been the time to try to learn a new system.
How much marketing have you had to do and how have book sales been?
Sales have been much better than I expected, especially in the UK. I think the wild Cornish setting is appealing to people. I’ve sent copies out to review and put it on my Twitter and Facebook accounts; other people have been brilliant in spreading the word too. Like many writers, I find promotion harder than writing!
Tell us about the novel …
The book is a romance novel set in Cornwall during winter and it about forgiveness and acceptance. I wanted to explore what would happen in a relationship when the person you loved not only destroyed your dreams, but then went on to achieve them themselves.
My main character, Carly, is a professional sailing champion, tipped for the Olympics, when a boating accident caused by the man she loved, Daniel, destroys her right leg and leaves her with a phobia of the water. She can’t forgive him and orders him to leave, but two years later Daniel returns—a double Olympic gold champion—and he wants her back. Carly is independent and intelligent; she is also flawed. Part of reason she can’t forgive him is because she is jealous of his success, but I like this part of her because it makes her real. Anyone in her situation would feel resentment.
I like writing about strong, brave women, who make their own decisions and control their own lives. From my own experiences, I can relate to Carly’s feelings.
What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
I’ve just had a request for a full manuscript from Musa, for a Victorian novella I sent them, and another request from My Weekly for a contemporary. After that I’m back to work editing a 70k book set in the medieval Forest of Dean, and after that, completing a book set in the theatre halls of Victorian London. I love history and it’s great being able to combine the too!
In ten years time I would love to be writing and producing books people like to read. It’s a tough market, so that’s enough for me.
Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?
Keep at it, but make sure you’re learning. There’s no pointing spending years making the same mistakes. You move forward, either through critiques, advice from a writing group, or courses. I wouldn’t expect to make much money from it either! Even published writers don’t earn much—bestsellers are pretty rare!
Other than that, don’t get upset by rejections, I keep a spreadsheet of my work, when I typed SOLD on the space by Winter Storms, I had reached submission number 150. That’s how many submissions to competitions, magazine and publishers it took for me to have a sellable novel.
Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it.
I won a prize at school for a paper mâché dinosaur. I still have the dinosaur.
Finally: can we post an extract of your novel?
The powerful sea wind hit Daniel Edwards with the force of a gybing boom. Hissing between his teeth, he yanked the wet dinghy painter and cursed as it scraped red burns across his hands. It was tempting to toss the rope away and watch the hated boat bob off into the ocean, but his team mates would never forgive him; the Olympic racing craft was worth a fortune. He never should have brought it out in this weather. Seeing the lifeboat bobbing beside a fishing trawler, waves exploding over the deck, made him realise how stupid and how lucky he’d been.
The mast had snapped when he reached the jetty, another expense he’d have to pay for. Not that he cared very much, when his sponsors discovered he’d risked the boat in a storm, they’d cancel his contract anyway. They already had what they wanted—double Olympic gold medals—now he was superfluous to requirements.
Hauling on the rope, Daniel tied it fast and straightened. Pulling down his waterproof hood, he stared across the harbour at the cluster of shops glowing with Christmas lights; it hadn’t changed much in two years. Turning to look at the black cliffs standing like gateposts either side of the harbour entrance, he recalled her scream and shuddered.
Should he have come back?
But Haven Bay was where he grew up and he couldn’t stay away forever, paying expensive hotel bills for his family to visit him. And after the Olympics, his urge to visit had grown stronger, pictures flashing through his mind like an old-fashioned projector, images of places and people, of a girl he had known. Imogen, his ex-fiancée, said she’d suspected for months that something wasn’t right. Standing in the hallway of their luxury flat, suitcases at her feet, she looked at him, not in anger, but with something akin to pity.
“There’s a part of you I can’t reach,” she said.
Daniel opened his mouth to protest, but she held her left hand up, showing a white ring of pale skin around her suntanned finger.
“I hoped our relationship would improve after you got the Olympic golds, but it’s worse, I never know what’s going through your mind. I keep expecting to come home to find the wardrobe half-empty and a note on the table telling me you’ve gone.” Putting hands on her hips, she stared at him. “I’m not the person you’re looking for.”
Daniel gazed now at the lights of Haven Bay. Had Imogen been right? A face, pushed for years into the back of his mind, was emerging, growing stronger and less blurry each day.
Two years ago, Carly had broken off their relationship with five hard words. “I do not love you,” she said.
And, refusing to beg, he left town on the next train. Only later did he wish he’d demanded an explanation, but it was too late by then, his pride wouldn’t let him return. So what if Carly didn’t want to know him? Many other girls did. Until Imogen showed him the truth: that he couldn’t love anyone else.
Slinging a rucksack over his shoulder, he stepped across the floating jetty to the sea wall. A rank odour of dead fish, salt water, and rust hit him, scents he remembered from his childhood. Boats creaked at their moorings and faint music drifted over from a pub. Brick steps led up the harbour wall, slippery with rubbery, rotting seaweed and when he reached the top, he froze, waiting for the bright flash of a camera. It never came and he smiled, of course, in winter the harbour lay deserted. It was during the summer months that scores of flip-flops struck across the warm cobbled streets, sticky with dropped Cornish ice cream. But he always preferred winter when the pavements were empty and waves hit the harbour walls in powerful green swells.
Copyright Lucy Oliver 2012, Crimson Romance Reproduced with kind permission of the author.
So how to buy the book!
Also available from KOBO, itunes and Barnes & Noble.
And follow Lucy on Facebook
Many thanks to Lucy for sharing and do take a look at this book if you like romance 🙂 Congratulations Lucy and we look forward to future successes!
Have a great day everyone!
Next week In the Spotlight: author DON NIXON