Saturday, 30 May 2015

Guest post: Erin Lawless

Today I'm delighted to hand over this post to Erin Lawless, to talk about her writing and publishing journey. So without further ado, here's Erin! 

"I LOVED the book," the email claimed. Good start. "But," the sentence continued (the literally dreaded but) "I'm not sure who your market is. The book is almost too many things…"

The email from the prospective agent went on to suggest I rework the book into a BDSM erotica and think about resubmitting.

This is a completely true story.

It was 2012 and I had just finished writing my first novel. After a lifetime of fanfiction, blog posts and questionable short story writing, I had managed it, all 105,000 glorious words. Seven characters, spanning seven years, I had literally slaved over it, and was torn between wanting to make every single person in the world read it and deleting the document in a full-on panic. I settled for the middle ground, sending the PDF out to ten or so friends and acquaintances who had volunteered to be brutally honest. And they all liked it. "I was worried I'd hate it, and it would be awkward," admitted one. "But it was actually really good!"

Buoyed by that confidence builder I sprang into action, buying the requisite copy of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook and researching the process from inspiration to publication. First, I needed an agent and so off went fifteen or so carefully cultivated and personalised submission letters – and my fingers very firmly crossed themselves. Months passed. I continued polishing my manuscript, checking my inbox constantly, ticking off the responses as they came in. I only had six responses and every single one of them said that book was good but that it was too cerebral to be a romance, too romantic to be considered general fiction, too X to be Y…

But I still really wanted to tell Adam and Harriet's story. So I shelved my dizzy plans for traditional publication and set about doing what I do well – sorting it out myself. I titled the book Little White Lies, pulled together an awful cover on Paint, whacked it up on Amazon and wished it well, my sweet, sad, cerebral romance.
By early 2013 I was knee-deep in a historical novella when I noticed a call out on Twitter from HarperCollins for a focus group of readers to attend their offices later that week to discuss a proposed new romance imprint. It was nearby, boasted free sandwiches and tea and I'd always wanted to see the inside of HarperCollins (high up on if not the pole position on my list of dream publishers) so I agreed to go along. Hours later, I walked out of HC Towers full of excitement about this imprint – it sounded fresh, innovative – I wanted to be a part of it.

So when Harper Impulse was opened for business later that year I dusted off my manuscript and submitted, still agentless, apologetic, eternally hopeful. By August I was signed to a two-book deal. And on 5th December 2013 the renewed, revamped, reworked Little White Lies was reborn as The Best Thing I Never Had. No BDSM necessary. 

In the last eighteen months Best Thing has had a torrid love affair with digital bestseller charts across all platforms, in several countries. I sat next to a stranger at a hen do dinner only to find she'd just finished reading it the night before, not knowing she'd be shortly sitting down to a curry with the author! It's been absolutely amazing – and something I clearly could not have done without the amazeballs team at Harper Impulse having my back. Knowing that I have shared – and continue to share – Adam and Harriet's story fills me up with pride every single day.

My second contemporary romance for the imprint is due out June 11th. Somewhere Only We Know might look like your typical boy-meets-girl story, but when that boy works for Immigration and that girl is a Russian national about to be deported, the tale is anything but typical. I'm so excited to start sharing a new story – Alex and Nadia's – another lovingly crafted "cerebral romance".

And I'm also reasonably smug to report that at least three of the literary agents who rejected me back in 2012 are currently following me on Twitter. 

Erin's latest novel- Somewhere only we know, is available from 11th June. You can preorder here

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