Last week I put the final touches to The Gift and sent it to my publishers for the very last time. As my finger hovered over the send button I don’t mind admitting there were tears, and I’m still not quite sure whether these were tears of relief or sorrow. I felt a certain amount of loss letting go of the characters that have been in the forefront of my mind every day for months and months. But as there were so many times during this process when I had been riddled with self-doubt, finishing was also the cause of much celebrating.
Second book syndrome is something I had read much about as I was writing my first book, The Sister, but I couldn’t quite understand it. Surely if you done it once it should get easier, not harder? As I started the submission process with The Sister I was eager to get stuck into something new. The Gift, the story of Jenna who after receiving a heart transplant begins to believe that the donor of her heart, Callie, was murdered and begins her own investigation after learning Callie’s death had been ruled accidental, had been simmering at the back of my mind for quite a long time.
It was a joy to start something fresh and when The Sister was picked up by a publisher I felt so grateful to know The Gift had a home too. All was going well until The Sister was released. I had been scared of course, waiting for the reviews, releasing a debut is daunting and I knew that if my novel wasn’t well received it would knock my confidence. To my delight the response to The Sister was phenomenal. It quickly reached number one in the Kindle chart, number one on iTunes, and was nominated for the Goodreads Awards Debut of 2016.
But the more readers contacted me to say how much they engaged with my characters, and enjoyed my story, the slower my progress got on The Gift. Did people love the characters in The Sister too much? Would The Gift be compared? Was I a one book wonder? I became plagued with self-doubt. Every morning I would open my laptop with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Could I really do this again?
My publication date was brought forward which piled on the pressure and my deadline loomed nearer and nearer. I didn’t have the luxury of taking time away from my manuscript and I questioned everything I was writing. There were many, many times I was tempted to email my publishers who had taken a chance on an unknown author, and tell them ‘I’m so sorry, but I think you’ve made a mistake offering me a contract.’
But afraid of letting people down I ploughed forwards, writing every day, using my mindfulness practice to keep the negative voices at bay they best I could. And little by little, word by word, my story took shape until it became the blend of emotion, fear, love and hope that I wanted. As Jenna found herself in danger I held my breath, and I felt her soaring highs and crushing lows as keenly as if they were my own and when the epilogue left me in floods of tears I knew I’d got it right. And at last I typed the two best words in the world, The End.
The Gift will be sent out to book reviewers next week, and will be published in a little over three weeks on 16 December, and I do hope people will fall in love with Jenna as much as I have. It is incredible to think once it seemed so out of reach to write a novel at all, let alone be published, and now I’m about to start writing book 3. Wish me luck!