Changing genres and getting THAT call

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything on the blog. So long, in fact, that my husband saw fit to complain about the lack of blog posts (he needs something to keep him entertained at work on a Friday). However as the main reason for this was emailed off last Friday, it seems an appropriate time to give a little update about what I’ve been working on over the past few months.

This all starts in autumn last year, when I had several partials out on submission, was suffering through extremely long response times, and had hit a bit of a wall, writing wise. I wasn’t blocked, I didn’t want to not write, but I needed to write something different, something that would present a different challenge. It was around this time that You Magazine and Black Lace books announced that they were running an erotic short story competition, open to everyone and free to enter, with publication of the story as a prize. I decided that I’d have a go. I’d had editorial feedback on a partial which featured a sex scene that the editor hadn’t liked, and that had stung. No-one wants to be told they write bad sex. So to prove to myself that I could in fact write sex that wasn’t awful, I wrote a short story about a shy temp who has sex with her boss in a train station waiting room (actually, it’s a bit more filthy than that, because there are other people in the waiting room at the time). It was extremely rude. There was blushing and hiding behind hands. I sent it off.

A few weeks later, I had a letter from Gillian Green saying I’d been shortlisted, together with a free book (can’t beat a free book).

Following on from this, I began to wonder if i should have a go at writing something with the aim of having it published. Being shortlisted had shown me that clearly there was something in my erotic writing that worked, and I wanted to test myself and see what I could come up with. I wrote a novella this time, about a photographer who takes erotic shots on the sly and who is caught out by her accountant. She has a massive crush on him. There’s lots of sex and nude photography. It was a huge amount of fun to write, and yes there was more blushing and hiding behind hands. I then took a scene from this novella with me to a writing sex workshop run by Julie Cohen, where it was read out loud and critiqued (if I was going to die from embarrassment, it would have been then). But beyond the dying of shame, it was apparent that something else was going on. As the scene was being read out, no-one was breathing. No-one was fiddling with their pen or scratching their ear. There was a moment, a really magical moment, where everyone stopped and the words caught them, and I began to think that maybe, just maybe I had something in amongst the first draft mess.

I went home, reworked the novella, adding another 10K to the length, and then I started to look for somewhere to submit it. I’d sold several of my contemporary stories to Escape at this point, but as this was different, I felt that a different publisher might be a good idea. I knew Carina UK were looking for Brit writers, and I’d heard whispers of multi book contracts, and I wanted one of those. I wanted one quite badly. So I submitted the partial through their website, and a few days later I had a request for the full. I submitted that after a frantic weekend of reading and polishing and reading again and hiding the laptop screen every time anyone came near it.

And then came the wait.

6 weeks of it.

Which by publishing standards is about 5 seconds, although it feels like 10 years of your life when you’re sitting it out. Towards the end of the 6 weeks, I decided I’d waited long enough and chased the submission, expecting an email reply. I didn’t get one. What I did get, a few days later, was a phone call. Now no-one rings my phone apart from my husband and occasionally the school, so when I checked the screen and saw it wasn’t either of them, I knew something was up. And there is a moment, when you see the number come up and it’s a London dialing code that you know. You just know. A short conversation with Lucy Gilmour later and I had sold that novella and I had a contract for 2 more. All three novellas are now complete and should be available in the spring πŸ™‚

And all because an editor said I wrote bad sex.

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