As the saying goes “You never forget your first time”. That’s especially true when you receive your first “yes” from a publisher. But let’s not get too fast and put the cart before the horses! Let’s speak instead a bit more of the first book I completed (that’s a true achievement in itself, as any writer knows!), which was the first book of the Trespassers series, the Heirs.
I don’t even know when it all started or, at least, when I first started collecting the ideas for this novel. One thing for sure – I’ve always been interested in fairies (but not the Disney kind, mind you) and ancient lore about them. The fact that I’ve definitely fallen in love with the Peter Jackson films – yes, I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings series – only convinced me further to delve into this subject.
From that moment on, I slowly but definitely gathered every element I found to my taste and which might turn out to be useful for my book. You might have guessed there were a lot of them and during the writing/revising stages of the Heirs, I had to prune without any pity any unnecessary darling until only the most efficient, vital twists remained (at least to my eyes!)
It was a very long process, in part because I couldn’t write every day (and I still don’t!). Word after word, page after page, my story began to take shape. That’s the magic of writing, when the characters you’ve only dreamt of start to truly express themselves, when they manage to surprise you and lead you away onto paths you’ve never glimpsed before. At that time, I didn’t realize I’ve found something precious and invaluable to me. Sure, I knew I loved reading and writing a little bit, creating whole stories in my mind, I’ve always been a dreamer. But there’s a huge difference between this and becoming a true, fully fledged writer. Has someone told me I’d become one published (!) writer at this moment, I’d have laughed my head off.
The Heirs started with Peter, a young boy living in London (one of my favourite cities in the whole world), who dreams of becoming a professional football (the soccer variety) player. He’s living a perfectly normal life until one night, after coming home, he finds himself attacked by two big dogs in his garden. He’s rescued in extremis by a vixen… which reveals herself a moment later as Hermeline, Peter’s own mother! That’s the start of the Trespassers (les Outrepasseurs in French), a solid 4-book series about a secret society with faes, skinchangers and other wonderful (or horrible. It depends on how you see them!) beasts.
As I’ve said before, in French-speaking countries, once your manuscript is finished and you deem it worthy to be sent to publishers, you don’t get an agent first (or at least, not when I first submitted the Trespassers). You send it directly to the publishers. And then, you wait. You wait. You wait quite a long time before you might get an answer (and that’s not a given, let me tell you!). I was lucky enough in that regard – first, I had the support of my writing friends from CoCyclics. Secondly, I only waited 8 months and a half (yes, I counted!) to get my first “yes”. I only realised later how unusual it was for a first novel to get accepted for publication. Kind of a miracle, really!
From that moment on, I learned what happened after that “yes”. How you work together with a publisher, what “revising” really means and especially how everyone expects you to write the sequel even if you don’t have the slightest idea about it! (Don’t worry, it turned out just fine.) Being a published writer also allowed me to live true, precious moments of joy and happiness – when you get your first invitation to book fairs; when you first met your readers and see for yourself the enthusiasm in their eyes, heard how they speak about your characters as if they were true, living persons; when you see your book nominated for an award and when a few weeks later, you discover you’ve won this award.
That’s when I knew deep down that I was made for this life. Writing, sharing my stories with other people, getting their reactions after they’ve read them… I got addicted to it.
That’s not to say it’s easy every day. I have to combine my writing life with my other full-time job as a translator without speaking of my personal life. Being a writer has its perks but also its disadvantages – the unexpected emails (and more often than not, as a result, you find yourself swamped with work), the tight deadlines which must be observed, the fact you’re going off for the whole weekend because you’ve been invited to a book fair (and as all my publishers are French, it means I’m travelling a lot in France).
But in the end, it’s worth it. More than worth it – I really couldn’t do without it.
Besides, as a person and as a writer, I enjoy rising to new challenges. And writing certainly got many surprises in store, as I’ve already experienced!
Next in this series – How I got my agent!