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

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. 

F**K You Cancer – A tribute to my beautiful friend

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The world has lost a bright light and I have lost my beautiful friend Sara, and already I miss her enormously. Cancer is something that is often spoken about in hushed tones, almost as though if you don’t say the word aloud it can’t touch you but it can. It does. It will. Is there anyone who hasn’t had a friend, a family member brush against this disease? Sometimes it seems not, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier to understand. It doesn’t make it easier to bear.

It’s hard to know what to feel right now. What to do. Who to be. And so I write. Sitting at my desk. A framed quote from Sara hangs on my wall. Something she sent to cheer me up a few months ago. Even with her life drawing to a close she thought of others. She thought of me. It always makes me laugh when I read it. Today it makes me cry and I know that she would hate that.

Next to her quote I have a corkboard packed full of photos of my family and my heart aches as I think of the children she will never now have. The places she will never see. And yet I have never quite known anyone as surrounded by love as she was. Enriching the lives of everybody she met. Always looking on the bright side. Never losing hope. A fighter til the end.

For the past seven years Sara has made me laugh and despite her circumstances that didn’t change. Until very recently we’d still Skype, laughing as we remembered times past, mutual friends and perhaps remembering the most important lesson of all.

“The world’s so beautiful.” Sara said and since then, no matter how busy I am, I make sure I look for the beauty in every day.

It’s been such a privilege to know you.

Goodbye gorgeous girl.

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B.A. Paris – The Breakdown Launch Lunch at The Ivy Club, London

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I had the pleasure of first meeting the lovely B.A. Paris at an author event last year. At that time I had just released my debut, The Sister, while hers, Behind Closed Doors had been out for several months. We bonded over our shared experience, our genuine bewilderment of both finally being published later in life and having No.1 Bestsellers and have championed each other throughout the process of writing our second tricky novels. She was thrilled for me when I published The Gift before Christmas and it shot to No. 1 and I was delighted to be able to join her at The Ivy Club yesterday to toast the launch of her second novel, The Breakdown, which is already soaring up the charts. fullsizerender-5It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, over one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. But first lets talk about the book.

img_9388The Breakdown is good. Not good in a ‘my friend is the author so I’m obliged to say that’ good, but ‘I started it last night, couldn’t put it down and have just finished it,’ good. From the opening chapter I was gripped by the story of Cass, a woman who is driving home late one night and passes a car that has broken down. There’s a raging storm, isolated countryside and I could feel Cass’s anxiety as she tries to decide whether she should stop and help, worried she could be putting herself at risk. Eventually she decides to drive on, a decision that ultimately haunts her throughout the rest of the book as the driver of the broken down car is found murdered and Cass has a creeping sense of unease throughout the story that she might be next on the killer’s list. The tension builds and builds throughout the story and anyone who loved Behind Closed Doors (and with over a million sales there’s rather a lot of people who did!) should love this story too.

img_9378The launch lunch itself was intimate, in a private room at The Ivy Club. I ate mixed beetroots with whipped goat’s curd, mixed seeds and moscatel dressing, followed by macaroni cheese and I finished with a cheeseboard. We drank champagne and red and white wine and chatted about books and writing. Being an author can be such a solitary existence sometimes, I really do treasure the time I get to spend with other writers.img_9380

The Breakdown is the WH Smith Book of the Week which I know B.A. Paris was very excited to discover, her ambition has always been to be able to visit a W H Smith’s store and see a copy of her book. The demand is so high W H Smith’s do keep selling out! As well as in all good bookstores you can also buy The Breakdown on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here and follow B. A. Paris on Twitter here.

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