At 4pm on Monday, I was painting a kitchen wall Rectory Red. By 7.20, I was an award winning author. Fortunately, you’ll be glad to know, I’d managed to change out of my paint-smeared clothes for the occasion. It was International Women’s Day, and the day when I was so proud to be one of six short-listed authors for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Saga Novel of the Year Award.
Now, I have to admit, a few weeks ago, I did have a little daydream about winning but that was before I checked out the others on the short-list. They were an incredible lot with so much experience, so many books and to be honest, so many readers that I decided I would just change out of the stylist painting outfit into something a little more glam, pour myself a nice G and T and enjoy the online ride. There were unfortunately, some technical issues so we were very late starting and during the last three minutes, someone mentioned having a few notes ready for a speech. I smiled as I grabbed a bit of paper and scribbled down some essential thank yous as a sort of joke. It never occurred to me that three minutes later I would need them.
Now, I’m not often lost for words but I had to take a deep breath to achieve any coherency at all. Fortunately, I managed to say something and was fine until I got to the bit where I said how thrilled I was and then the voice broke. Good time to finish probably.
So, let me share with you how I feel about this.
Remember, I started writing my first novel, ‘Lily’s War’ as a means of rediscovering my parents as young people after my mum died. It was a very personal journey and not really one I had thought through. An agent was quickly followed by a publisher and a book deal and hey presto- I was apparently an author. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to race around the country to talk to lots of elderly service women to talk to them about their time in the war. One of them was the amazing ATA pilot, Mary Ellis who, even at the age of 101, had so much professionalism that I felt like a first former in the presence of the head girl. She was nothing short of fabulous. From that meeting came ‘Bobby’s War’ which is inspired by Mary but certainly, does not, in any way, reflect her personal story. I wouldn’t have dared to try to do that.
In the last few years, I’ve gone from wanting to give this writing lark a whirl to a panel of judges taking my book seriously enough to give it a prestigious award and it’s taking some getting used to.
I’ve been overwhelmed by people’s kindness and generosity since I won this award: friends, locals and writers. I was probably a bit surprised to find out that authors are actually really lovely people and as one of them said ‘We’re not in competition with each other; if people like one of our books, then they’ll probably read them all.” Fair enough, I think.
So, with this momentous week behind me, I just have a couple of things to say.
I can’t believe how many people it takes to write a book. For me, it’s an army of family, helpers, counsellors, therapists and wine merchants… and of course, you lot, who are so loyal, patient and supportive in reading all these missives. I couldn’t have got this far without you all.
On the 18th March, ‘Bobby’s War’ will be available in paperback- it’s been out as an audiobook and an ebook for a while now and I can’t wait to hear if you agree with the people who’ve been kind enough to already post reviews and, of course, the judges.
Now, all I have to do is get on with finalising the next one about a Land Army girl and a fourth about the internment camp on the Isle of Man.
Did I really just say ‘ALL?’