THE WRITING LIFE – publication week and what it’s really like

The long-awaited (by me, anyway) publication of What She Lost was a week ago, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect on what publication day (and week) actually means for an author.


A mother whose memory is ravaged by Alzheimer’s, a daughter desperate to discover the truth, a terrible secret that has haunted them both. Can Eleanor reconnect with her mother before it’s too late?

Like many authors, before my first novel was published, I had this idea that on publication day, my book would suddenly be visible in bookshops all over the country. Realistically, you know your book isn’t going to be stocked by everyone, but somehow you still have this vague notion that if you walk into any store that sells books, you’ll be able to see yours standing there, gleaming on the shelves.

But it’s not really like that. In fact, even now that I’m technically a bestselling author, and even though What She Lost is a Good Housekeeping “recommended read” and a Waitrose “buyer recommends”, it’s been out for a week and so far the only place I’ve seen it for sale is in Waterstones. If anyone’s spotted it anywhere else this week, I’d love to know.

So after what’s usually a very long build-up, it’s a bit of an anticlimax and you can end up feeling a bit flat. You may know the publication date more than a year beforehand – I finished this book in September 2015, and completed the final corrections last summer. It’s a long wait, and when the day comes, actually, nothing is really any different.

Well, that’s not strictly true – I received some beautiful flowers from my publishers and a lovely card from my agent, not to mention the many, many good wishes on Twitter and Facebook. More cards and flowers followed from friends, and I feel privileged to be on the receiving end of such goodwill.

But when all the fuss dies down, you’re left with the crippling fear that your readers won’t like it as much as your previous novels, or worse still, that no one will read it anyway. Bonkers, really, because I’ve already had some lovely feedback (see below). But we writers are notoriously insecure.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know what a bugger this book was to write. In fact, if you’re struggling with your own draft, it might help to have a look at some of the posts from when I started it in early 2014 – yes, 2014 – until I finished a decent draft in September 2015. I began writing a regular blog about the process in July 2014, initially for a series of 10 posts, but it was so popular that I’ve just kept going, although now it’s usually only every two or three weeks.

The first draft really was bad and my post from January 2015 covers the feedback I received from my agent and editor at that point. I posted regularly during the extensive redrafting process, and knew I’d finally got it right when I submitted it again in September 2015 I always knew there was something I wanted to say in this book; I knew the heart of it, but with two viewpoints over several different time periods, it was a structural nightmare. I am thrilled now that it’s out there in the world, and already receiving good feedback. Here are a few of the quotes from the Good Housekeeping reader panel:

“Beautiful story of a Mum and daughter finally growing close after years of emotional distancing. Poignant to say the least.”

“A thought provoking and reflective book, echoing my mother’s slow decline into dementia. I loved the references to bygone products which evoked a sensory overload at times. Well written and researched. The main characters were well drawn and elicited sympathy for the dilemmas in which they found themselves.”

“An emotional read that draws you in and holds your attention the whole way through. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will look out for books from the same author again.” 
Also, I’ve just had my very first reader review on Amazon, and I’m happy to report that it’s five stars.

It’s been a busy week, because there’s a lot of work around publication, mostly enjoyable – social media, writing guest pieces for other blogs, arranging book signings. And in the midst of all this, I’m trying to re-draft my fourth novel!

I’ll leave it there for this week, but look out for photos from the two launch events that are coming up. If you are in Sheffield, there’s a launch tomorrow (16th March) at 6.30 in Waterstone’s Orchard Square, and if you’re in south-east London, there’s one next Thursday (23rd of March) in Waterstones Greenwich (near the Cutty Sark). All are welcome. Full details on my news and events page.

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, please visit my website

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