Much as I love chatting to enthusiastic readers – whether online or face-to-face – there is one question I dread.
‘When’s your next book coming out?’
‘I’m working on it!’ I say; which could, of course, mean anything from ‘it’s off to the printer next week,’ to ‘I’ve started a new Word document and have thought of a title.’ The truth is usually somewhere in between.
I know that when you’ve loved an author’s books, it’s agony to wait months – or even years – for a follow-up. Some authors put out a book every twelve months, like clockwork. Some even manage two books a year – often in different genres.
Me? I take a little longer. And this is why…
In January and February 2016 I was working on the third and final draft of I SEE YOU, a book I had started the previous spring. I taught a workshop for the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, and spoke to students at Curtis Brown Creative, but otherwise focused on writing, as publication timescales had already been set.
On 7th March I delivered the final draft. The rest of that month was spent at literary festivals in Norway, Denmark and Essex, and in marketing meetings for I SEE YOU. I also spoke at my publisher’s annual conference.
The copy edits (final changes) on I SEE YOU were due by 7th April, and I did these whilst in Amsterdam meeting Dutch booksellers and readers. I went to London Book Fair, where I SEE YOU was a lead title, had a photo shoot for a new author picture, and attended Chipping Norton Literary Festival in my capacity as trustee.
Up until this point, 2016 had been progressing without any real surprises, but April gave us a bit of a curveball. An idle Rightmove search threw up a house we fell in love with, so the following month, in between literary events in Wrexham and Nailsworth, we put our Oxfordshire house on the market and expressed our interest in the house in north Wales. With I SEE YOU now put to bed, I started work on Book Three.
In June we accepted an offer on our house, and offered on the house in Wales. The vendors accepted, and that was that: we had committed to a relocation, with under two months to sort out the children’s school before the end of the academic year. Writing was interrupted by a week in Mexico at the country’s inaugural Festival of Culture, and pre-publication events for I SEE YOU, including stock signings, a recorded interview with Audible, and dinner with book reviewers.
I taught crime-writing for a week in July, at the wonderful Chez Castillon in south-west France, flew off to northern Spain for a crime festival, then attended the Theakston’s Old Peculier crime-writing festival in Harrogate. The rest of the family joined me in Harrogate en route to our family holiday in Scotland, taking in a quick book launch for I SEE YOU in Glasgow on publication day.
I try very hard not to work during the school holidays, and usually take August off. In 2016 we spent most of August in Scotland, but I did work on book three on occasions, as time was ticking by and I was keen to have a first draft done by September. Needless to say, this didn’t happen, because in August I started meetings for a Secret Project…
So, September rolled round. Neither our house sale or our house purchase had gone through, but we moved to north Wales to a holiday cottage, so the children could take up their places at the Welsh language unit. We live in an area where Welsh is the first language, and education is delivered at primary level in Welsh, so the council funds twelve-week placements at an immersive language unit for non-Welsh speaking children moving to the area. I said no to all events in September, to ensure I was there to help the kids settle in, and aimed to spend the month working hard on book three during school hours. However, by then the Secret Project had been confirmed, with its own challenges and deadlines. Living and working in a holiday cottage without a dedicated office proved really tough, and the stresses of the house move started to take their toll. It was hard – really hard – to write.
October got underway and I did events in Yorkshire, Essex and Oxfordshire. I worked on book three in the mornings and the Secret Project in the afternoon, and dealt with daily anxiety attacks caused by the conveyancing process. In the run-up to half term the house we were buying fell through, just as we exchanged on our house in Oxfordshire. We were all devastated.
At the start of November we moved to a longer-term rental place, put all our possessions into storage, and I rented an office in town so I could write. We had an offer accepted on another house. I spent the best part of a week at Brive Book Fair, in France, and toured Scottish libraries as part of Book Week Scotland. I finished the Secret Project.
With one month left of the year I made a renewed effort to knuckle down and write Book Three, but it’s impossible to overstate what an impact stress can have on your work. The house move continued to throw up obstacles, and a week before Christmas we were gazumped and lost the second house.
And that is why it is taking so long to write Book Three.
My first two books have sold so well that I continue to pinch myself on a daily basis. I LET YOU GO has sold more than 600,000 copies in the UK alone, and is translated into more than thirty languages. I SEE YOU has topped 100,000 sales, and the paperback isn’t even out yet. I feel incredibly lucky to have loyal readers who are keen to read another of my books, and I don’t want to let you down by writing something that isn’t the best I can possibly make it.
So I’m sorry I don’t have another book out yet, but I hope you understand why 2016 was a bit of a bust for me. I am hopeful that 2017 will bring a new house, settled children, and more writing time.