Flash Fiction – One day…

Image courtesy of Sandra Crook

‘Writing’s a dead end job.’ The careers advisor had said. Even now, I remember the heavy feeling in my stomach as my hopes sank.

I straighten the stack of paperbacks on the table. Check there’s a spare pen.

‘There’s no money in books.’ She had said and I wish she could see me now, sitting under the ‘Bestsellers’ sign.

Outside, the queue snakes around the corner. It’s nearly time.

‘Lisa, have you finished?’ My manager snaps. ‘The author will be here in a minute.’

I scuttle back to my place behind the till, wishing again I hadn’t given up so easily.

 

My careers advisor told me writing wasn’t a viable career and sadly I listened to her and for 25 years I pushed my dreams to one side. Thankfully, in my 40’s I decided to try and write a novel and am still stunned that my first two books, The Sister and The Gift, have both been International No.1 Bestsellers, selling over 750,000 copies. It’s never too late!

‘One Day’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story challenge, inspired by a photo prompt. You can join in over at Rochelle’s blog, here

 

 

Standing where other writers stood

 

Yesterday was my birthday and my husband wrenched me kicking and screaming away from my manuscript to visit Stoneywell, a quaint National Trust property in Leicestershire.

 

The grounds were stunning and the five bedroomed cottage was quirky and cosy. Each misshaped room had a window seat and was crammed with books. I fell in love with it the second I stepped over the threshold, even more so when I learned of the history.

Edward Phillips Oppenheim, a writer born in 1866 was a friend of the family, and wrote several of his 100 published (yes 100!!) novels at Stoneywell. I was in awe to think I was standing where he stood. Perhaps touching the very typewriter he used. (I Googled when I got home and typewriters were patented in 1829 & developed properly in 1867, so you never know).

There’s something utterly captivating about the thought of a writer, of times past, focused on their manuscript. None of the distractions of social media and marketing. It’s easy to romanticize, imagine perhaps they wrote for a morning and then went for a stroll through the gorgeous countryside before returning for tea and cake.

 

The reality was probably starkly different. This cottage was freezing and that was with the addition of central heating. Oppenheim’s fingers were probably numb, and progress perhaps slow, but that didn’t stop me begging my husband to fetch my old typewriter from the loft as soon as we got home.

 

‘I’m going to write book 4 on it.’ I declared.

‘Perhaps wait and see how you feel in the morning?’ He wisely suggested, reluctant to disappear into our roof space crammed with all the things ‘I-absolutely-might-need-one-day-but-never-have-yet.’

Today I am revelling in the luxury of my PC where I can cut and paste and listen to music at the same time, glad I don’t have to tell my publishers my next book could take years to write as I am shying away from technology. But still, I think of that cottage and it tugs at my heart strings. I shall visit again soon. The scones were too good not to!

Supporting my local library (aka crying in public)…

There’s nothing I love more than getting out and meeting readers so it was a real privilege to be invited to Corby Library for the launch of their Reading Ahead Challenge.

This is the first year Corby has taken part in this challenge although lots of other libraries in the country already take part. The scheme is designed to encourage more people to read. When you sign up you get a card where you keep track of your next six reads (or listen if you prefer audio books). There is a get together each month where you can talk books with like-minded people in your local community and at the end you get a certificate. Although today was the official launch you have between now and October to join in. I met some lovely people including some writers and their passion for books has inspired me to come home and do some work to my own manuscript.

Libraries have always been a huge part of my life. From my primary school who let me borrow far more than the one allocated book per week, to my village librarian who joked when I told her I had exhausted all of their stock that I should write my own book (I went home and started The Sister). I’ve many fond memories of visiting the big town library with my own mum, touching the books, taking ages to choose the ones I wanted, and then taking my own children to pick their bedtime stories.

I was overcome with emotion when today I saw The Sister on a library shelf for the very first time and was told how popular it is, along with The Gift. This has definitely been one of my highlights of being published and I found the thought of library users choosing my book to take home incredibly overwhelming. Luckily before I could shed too many tears at the enormity of it all the cake was brought out and I had to compose myself. After all it would have been rude not to have a slice (or three) wouldn’t it?

You can find out more about the Reading Ahead Challenge here.

My first foreign editions (aka we haven’t run out of peanut butter)

I was bleary-eyed when I answered the door to the postman this morning and took in a parcel. I couldn’t remember ordering anything, although admittedly I have been known to 1-click on Amazon and wipe it instantly from my mind. Half-asleep I opened the box and I think I must have screamed because the spaniel rushed out of the kitchen with her paws over her ears and my husband rushed in.

‘What’s wrong?’ he shouted, a panicked expression on his face as he looked for signs of injury/electrocution/flood. ‘This isn’t because we’ve run out of peanut butter is it?’ Luckily for him I was too excited to be offended that he thinks I am such a drama queen. In the box was books! My books! My first ever foreign editions and suddenly I was overcome with tears. A little over a year ago I’d almost lost hope of ever holding a paperback in English. The thought I might one day be published in other languages had genuinely never occurred to me.

This Polish edition is gorgeous, shiny and embossed. Crammed full of words I do not understand but I wrote those words and the realisation that around the world readers are getting to know Grace and Charlie is such a humbling feeling. There are many more foreign editions to come and I hope this sense of excitement, this sense of wonder, stays with me for each and every one. And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better I also found a new jar of peanut butter in the back of the cupboard. Hurrah. Celebratory toast was eaten by all.

The Dead Good Reader Awards are open for voting. By voting you could also win £200 worth of books. If you loved The Sister, and have a few seconds, I would massively appreciate a nomination in the Debut Category. You can vote here. Thanks. Louise x

Half a million copies sold and THIS was my first thought…

This morning, I was thrilled to receive a call from my lovely editor who told me The Sister has officially sold half a million copies. Bizarrely (or not if you know me) my first thought was ‘Grace and Charlie will be SO pleased.’ Yes, even now when I’m writing my third book I haven’t quite yet come to terms with the fact my beloved characters in my debut aren’t real. I am enormously proud of them and their story.

When I first wrote a snippet of flash fiction it took days of deliberation before I felt brave enough to try to expand it into my first ever short story. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop but even as it grew into the 90k word novel it is today I never once thought it would be published. I was too old. Too inexperienced. Too scared to try if I’m honest but my love for Grace, my desire for her story to be heard drove me forwards, and I am so fortunate I found a publisher, Bookouture, who shared the same passion for my story. I feel humbled so many readers have given their valuable time reading my first novel, and am hugely grateful for the book bloggers who have championed The Sister from the start. Your support has meant the world to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤️

“I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me …”

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s last words, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

You can find The Sister on Amazon UK here, or Amazon US here.

Hachette acquires Bookouture!

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Huge congratulations to my publisher, Bookouture, who have announced they are now part of Hachette. Exciting times ahead for all!

Here’s the official press release: – 

Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO of Hachette UK, today announces the acquisition by Hachette UK of Bookouture, Britain’s leading independent ebook publisher.

“I am delighted to announce today that Hachette UK has acquired Bookouture, the UK’s leading ebook specialist publisher.

“In just four years since it was founded, Bookouture has established itself as an outstandingly successful and innovative ebook publisher. Its formidable reputation and enormous success in publishing many bestselling ebook authors, including Angela Marsons, Louise Jensen and Robert Bryndza, whose novel The Girl in the Ice has sold over one million copies, demonstrates that Bookouture probably knows more about selling ebooks than any other publisher in the world. We salute Oliver Rhodes and his colleagues and welcome them warmly to Hachette.

“The acquisition of Bookouture is a landmark event for Hachette UK, demonstrating the scope of our ambition to expand and develop our core publishing business by acquiring the best companies in their field where the fit is right and their ambition matches our own. Bookouture has achieved remarkable things in its short history and, while it will continue as a standalone business, I know that we will mutually enhance and grow our businesses through, where it is appropriate, sharing our expertise and pooling our talents.”

Bookouture will have a special relationship with Little, Brown, which will publish some of Bookouture’s authors in print editions. Oliver Rhodes, CEO of Bookouture, will continue in this role and will also become Digital Publisher of Hachette UK. He will join the board of Hachette UK reporting to David Shelley, CEO of Little, Brown and Orion. In his new dual role Oliver will both continue to run Bookouture and, by steering and advising, also help increase ebook sales across the Hachette UK group.

Bookouture employs 16 people, all of whom will remain with the company, which will continue to be based in its offices in King’s Cross.

David Shelley said:

“I have long admired the work Oliver has done at Bookouture – he and his colleagues have discovered some amazing authors and have enjoyed extraordinary success with them; they publish with real flair and creativity. I could not be more excited to work with Oliver and his team in taking Bookouture and its authors to the next level, and to have Oliver’s input into Hachette’s digital publishing more generally. I think he will bring something very special to our business.”

Oliver Rhodes said

“Seeing Bookouture flourish in the past four years has been an incredible and rare privilege – we have an extremely talented and dedicated team and a fantastic group of authors who we are very proud of. What is so exciting about taking this next step and becoming part of Hachette UK is that it will help us to build on the significant momentum we already have and achieve even greater things for our authors.

“Tim and David’s vision for Bookouture within Hachette UK is absolutely everything I would want it to be – supportive, forward-thinking, and ambitious – and that was a key factor in making this decision. To sit alongside the other fantastic publishing houses in the group and work with some of the best people in the business will be a real thrill. I know we’ll learn a great deal from each other and I can’t wait to get started.”

My first school visit – 250 kids – what could possibly go wrong?

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Last week I was writing when my phone flashed with an incoming call – my son’s primary school – and my heart stuttered as I thought of all the things that might be wrong.

‘Will you come into school on World Book Day and talk to the kids about writing? Just Years 5 & 6. Only around 250 children.’

Only?!? 250!?! I’ve never given a talk before and instantly I felt sick, dizzy, afraid. Options pin-balled around my mind. I could hang up, pretend they had the wrong number, put on an accent and say I can’t speak English. So many words formed on my tongue, but I thought about the amazing assemblies I’ve seen there over the years. How brave the children are to stand up in front of the school and act and sing, and of all of the words that formed on my tongue, the one that came out was yes. The children can’t all enjoy performing and yet they do it anyway. What sort of example would I set to my son if I didn’t at least try?

Yesterday, it was a different story. Riddled with doubt I spoke my lovely friend Victoria who told me to imagine I was speaking to one little girl. The little girl who loved to read. Loved to write. Who wanted nothing more than to be an author. The little girl I once was who had her dreams crushed when the career advisor said writing was neither a ‘proper or viable career choice.’ And a quiet determination grew inside. If in some small way I could inspire one child to follow their dreams it would be worth any amount of anxiety I might feel.

img_9444This morning I stood in front of a sea of expectant faces. I locked eyes with my son. He’d been so excited I was visiting and I wanted to make him proud, not faint/vomit/cry and so I ignored the notes I’d made and I spoke from the heart. I spoke of my passion for writing, my love for my characters, how I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I spoke of my belief that we can all be who we want to be, if only we dare to dream and never stop trying.

I asked the children questions. They asked me questions. Some had written them down, complete with illustrations. Most loved to read, to write, to fabricate stories and many of them dream of being authors and seeing that raw hope, that ambition, that certainty, I am sure they can do anything they set their minds to.

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It was a real privilege meeting these children and I came away hopeful, and inspired, and itching to write. It was such an enriching experience. I learned a lot about them, but I also learned a lot about me.