I was talking on my Facebook page recently about scary things that had happened since becoming published – and how I had learnt to face my fears. And it made me realise how important it is to grab opportunities, even if you think you are not up to the job. A bit like dating a guy you consider to be out of your league. I’m still a coward when it comes to certain things – I’ve avoided going on a radio show and have yet to organise a real-life book launch, just in case nobody turns up! But here are five things I am proud of pushing myself to do even though, at the time, my stomach was in knots!
To start with, the first time I met up with my publisher, in London. I’d spent the previous sixteen years as a stay-at-home mum so was completely out of my comfort zone in this new business environment. It makes me chuckle now that I managed to wangle sandwiches in the offices instead of being taken out to lunch – I was like a nervous schoolgirl on a first date! After the formal part we did, in the end, go out for coffee and the day turned out to be fabulous. I surprised myself with an inner confidence. Now I really look forward to my trips down to the Big Smoke.
The second scariest thing… reading reviews. The first review for my debut book, Doubting Abbey, went up on GoodReads the night before launch. It was 3* which whilst not a bad rating, didn’t meet my perfectionist hopes. Tears were shed. I convinced myself that the book would flop and that I’d let everyone down. As it was, the book went on to be a bestseller and lots of readers loved the characters and plot. But for a while, I looked at each new review with trepidation. These days, my skin is much thicker and I realise that not everyone will like my work. And accepting that is part of my job.
Thirdly… ooh…. going to my first Romantic Novelists Association party. I imagined, in my head, that the chat would be all about literature and I was going to be outed as the least well-read person in the room. As it was, I couldn’t have been more wrong! Think Prosecco on tap, lots of laughs, a little gossip, and just banter and empathy about being a writer and books. I now adore meeting up with my writerly friends, who are some of the most generous, supportive people in the world.
Fourthly… managing expectations has been hard and thinking too much about them is scary – something I try not to do just before the launch of a book, like at the moment with Breakfast under a Cornish Sun coming out in July. I try to control those questions in my head like is my writing good enough? Will I let down my agent? How many copies does my publisher expect to sell? Will my readers love this story as much as the last? I’ve learnt just to take my career one book at a time and to try to be satisfied if a good number of readers end up being moved in some way by the story, regardless of rank or sales or income. I recently received a lovely message from a reader who couldn’t wait to get home to finish Game of Scones and I couldn’t hope or expect for more than that.
Lastly…I guess, ironically, the scariest thing is finally achieving your dream. Is it really everything you thought it would be? For the most part, the last three years have been a whirlwind of excitement and thrills, with books selling well and an award won. Of course there have been difficult moments, as with any career, when I have thought of that phrase “be careful what you wish for”. Yet finally I feel like I have “come home” and am doing what I should be with people who “get” what I am about. So really, that’s turned out to be not scary at all.