Writing the book, however long that takes, is just the very beginning of a very long process! I like to start writing a new book in the Autumn. It’s something I’ve been doing for a few years now and if I get to Autumn without making a start on a new project I feel at odds! I usually have a couple of ideas, so I start out by thinking about the main characters, finding their voice, and then I write the first couple of chapters of each story to get a feel of where the stories might go. One of the two stories rolls forward, hopefully, and the other will get put on the back-burner for another time.
I started writing The Long Weekend in early Autumn, putting aside a book that I had already started because Sam’s story came to me so clearly and with such urgency that I knew I had to write it then and there. Unusually, the story came tumbling out so fast that it was finished before I knew it. I read it through and had a few friends read it through – they all, unequivocally, loved it! I made a few changes here and there, but not many, and then I sat on it for a few months full of doubt, wondering whether it was good enough – I think all writers experience something like this. Finally, I plucked up the courage to send The Long Weekend to some agents. I used The Writers and Artists Yearbook and picked the agents who were interested in children's and teen fiction. I followed their guidelines and submitted the first three chapters with a synopsis and cover letter, and then I waited. The waiting is the hardest part, so to distract myself I went back to writing the story I had left.
It was a couple of months before I heard back from a few agents who were interested in looking at the whole manuscript. I sent the manuscript off to them, and waited, again, and went back to writing, trying not to be distracted by whether they had read the whole manuscript yet and what they thought of it. Two agents were very interested. One wanted the story to be changed into a simple kidnap story, the other loved it as it was. Guess which agent I went with!
From there, finding a publisher involved more waiting. The subject matter of the book was seen by many publishers as too risky, and although they agreed it was sensitively and appropriately dealt with, they were still hesitant. I was lucky with my publisher, Andersen Press, who loved the book and I signed on the dotted line with them. The process so far had taken over a year.
Most publishers have their lists for the next twelve to eighteen months already planned, but I was lucky that Andersen Press slotted it for publication for less than a year later, which is still a long time to wait as a debut author! During that time, the book was read by proof-readers and the title was almost changed! They had a list of titles and they asked me for a list of possible alternative titles, but in the end, The Long Weekend stuck!
A cover was designed, which they posted to me for approval. I opened the envelope not quite sure of what I would see. The publishers had told me that the art director had read the book to get a feel of it before designing the cover, so I was hopeful that it would be an arresting cover. And it was! I think it captures the feel of the book.
The hardest part of the whole process from writing to publication is the waiting. You have to develop a very thick skin, be able to take comments and constructive criticism. But it’s worth all that to see your book in a bookshop, and to see people reading it and loving it.
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