As a writer, most days I can easily predict how my day is going to go. Wake early, crawl out of bed, downstairs, make tea and sit at my desk until there’s a child in front of me looking for breakfast. An hour of general bedlam ensues in getting children out to school and then I repeat my earlier exploits until it’s time to collect them. I’m either typing feverishly or banging my head against the wall. On a good day, a wash may get put on, or some socks put away. Dinner may get made. Children will be fed. And we repeat the next day and the next. The writer/parent coalface, if you will. So, when a chance comes up to take a day, an hour or even twenty minutes out to do something different for your writing, you grab it with both hands. Even if it thrusts you out of your comfort zone to the limits of your vulnerability.
In a wave of feck-this bravery, I booked an appointment with an agent at the London Book Fair. It was there after all last year, that an agent suggested the path I’m currently on (you can read about that here) and there was a certain victory for me in returning to the Fair with the ‘something different’ I’d written since then. Just as the previous year had been a shot in the dark, so too would this. My first opportunity to pitch my new supernatural crime novel The Detective. But rather than the two-day extravaganza last year, I decided or rather my bank manager did, that it would be a day trip. A cheap red eye flight out of Dublin that morning (alarm call, 4am) and a return on the last one that night. My appointment was not until 4.30pm so I had plenty of time in case of any last-minute flight delays.
Now, having been to last year’s Book Fair, I had learned a few things. Firstly, the place for me within the mayhem, was Author HQ. The rest of the Fair is for trade, so I knew I could save myself the endless roaming around, past stalls that I didn’t need to look at and frankly didn’t need nor want me. The most important thing was the meeting. Ten minutes, speed dating style. That’s a long way to go for a ten-minute meeting, you might think, and a strong chance of failure but I had to do it – because I must do something. As a sign at the airport reads…’Better an oops than a what if’, so I take every opportunity I can, to do what I think is the right step for me.
But I needed a counter measure. Something, a nice thing for me to do that day with no pressure; that if the date went terribly, I could still feel I’d achieved something positive. So, I decided on some research. I’ve written the sequel to Our Destiny Is Blood (hooray!) and while it still needs fine tuning, the story is there and the setting, much of which will be in London this time around. I won’t give too much away but I wanted to find out a little about the monarch at the time of the Great Irish Famine, Queen Victoria, and Kensington Palace, where she was born and raised seemed a good place to start.
I spent two hours there soaking up every detail, taking lots of pictures and getting a general feel for what life must have been like there in 1848, the period in my novel. A more detailed post on this will come closer to the book’s release, but it was lovely and inspiring and took my mind off the pressure of my meeting later that day.
From there, a walk down High Street Kensington, took me to the Fair for lunchtime. I felt relaxed and ready to focus on the latter half of my whistle-stop tour. Inside the bustling exhibition halls, I found a quiet corner to sit on the floor (there’s not much seating), to have a sandwich and go over my notes.
The date itself went very smoothly and the agent thought I had a great pitch. She seemed genuinely interested in the material which was a huge relief both for me and my characters. They are part of me, yet they exist outside of me and while I’m not crazy enough to be booking them airline seats, I still feel like they’re roaming around with me, dying to know the meeting’s outcome.
The agent handed me her card and asked me to submit everything on email to her. So, we’ll see what happens. I’m a bit more pragmatic this time around. The first submission is just the beginning of a long road, and while a small part of you hopes it won’t be paved with rejection, that’s the nature of it unfortunately. After the meeting, I sat in on a panel, The Agony & Ecstasy of Self-Publishing and found solace in the company of like-minded authors, sharing a similar experience. The afternoon drew to a close and I left Kensington behind, conscious of the trek back to Stanstead Airport. The early start was now kicking in and by the time I got there I was hungry, exhausted and looking forward to getting home. In the end, my flight was delayed, and I eventually crawled in my front door, bleary-eyed at 2am.
Now I’m back to those regular days at the coalface again, excited by the possibilities of what might happen next. I don’t know when the next day will arise for me to grab an opportunity like that, but the active getting-out-from-behind-my-desk-to-make-things-happen, will feed me for many days to come.