This is the question I am most frequently asked during author talks. I always know that by this people mean, when did you first get published? The assumption is that you're not a 'proper' author unless you're published, with your own name on the cover. When I was first published I felt I wasn't a 'real writer' as it was under a pseudonym. Twenty books later I still hadn't managed to convince myself I was doing anything other than the writing equivalent of painting by numbers and it wasn't until Petrify was published last year that I really felt I'd 'arrived'. However, I digress.
Okay, so, where did it all begin? Well, my mother would say that as a child I would lie on the floor scribbling away. I remember writing a story for my best friend when we were twelve and avid fans of a-ha. She was passionately in love with Morten Harket (anyone born in the seventies won't require an explanation) and so I penned a happily ever after story which involved my friend, Morten and a beach on Antigua (ahh, the thrill of artistic license). It might not have been the stuff that wins the Orange prize for fiction but it gave me my first insight into what it was like to write for an audience.
A few years later I decided to get serious and bashed out on a typewriter a detectives on horseback novel which I sent out with high hopes. These hopes were soon extinguished as the rejections began dropping on the doormat. One of the rejections came from Penguin but some kind person to whom I shall forever be grateful had scribbled at the bottom of the standard letter, you might try Working Partners, they publish this sort of thing.
For those who may not know, Working Partners is a packaging company. They have a brilliant team of editors who come up with terrific ideas for books which are then matched to suitable authors who write to spec. I duly approached Working Partners and not too long after was invited to 'try out' for their Animal Ark series. I was unsuccessful but they did provide me with detailed feedback on my manuscript. A while later they invited me to try out for their Heartland series and this time I was taken on as one of their writers. I'll never forget the day I played the voicemail saying that I'd been successful - a twenty something turning cartwheels is not the most graceful sight to behold!
The best thing about working with a packaging company is the help and advice you are given by the editors. I was first privileged to work with Amber Caraevo before coming under the guidance of the very lovely Victoria Holmes. We have now worked on four series together (Heartland, Chestnut Hill, Champions Yard, Sanctuary) and Vicky makes the process from beginning to end a complete joy. However, I soon came to realise that to reach the next rung on the writing ladder was to secure an agent....