Today is the publication day of Cold Blood, the fifth book in my Erika Foster series. Publication days are always very exciting, and nerve wracking, knowing that this is the first time readers get to hold a copy in their hands. I spend the day wondering how many people are opening the book for the first time, and reading the words I’ve worked on so hard for the past few months. I hope that I haven’t let my readers down, because it’s readers who have given me the opportunity to write full-time, and for that I am forever grateful.
My first ever publication day was March 2012, in Slovakia, for a book called Mrcha Hollywood. It’s the Slovak language translation of my book Lost in Crazytown. It was an exciting, but rather terrifying day. My first ever book was being published, and I couldn’t even read it!
Late in 2011 I moved back from Los Angeles to live in Slovakia, with my Slovak husband Ján. I had been writing for several years with small amounts of success; I’d written some comedy sketches for a show which I performed in London, and I’d taken a play I’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. Early in 2010, I’d completed my first novel The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard and it had excited a literary agent enough for him to take me on. I came very close to a publication deal in the UK, only for it all to fall through and for the agent to lose interest. So in late 2011 we came to live with Ján’s mum in her small flat in Slovakia.
At this point I was at a very low ebb. I was about to give up writing and had started looking for work as an English language teacher. However, Ján encouraged me to keep going and write down some of the strange and crazy experiences we’d had in Hollywood. I wasn’t keen on writing a new book which would never see the light of day, but he persisted, and took me out to the local Chinese, where we started to talk through the our year in Los Angeles, and the more we talked, the more I saw it might make a good story. We worked out that the little money we had could last until January, so we might as well have one last roll of the dice.
I wrote furiously from October to December 2011, working 7 days a week, and at the same time, Ján translated it into Slovak. By Christmas we effectively had two books, one in English and one in Slovak. In early January of 2012, we submitted the manuscript to several publishers in Slovakia. My confidence had ebbed away over the holidays, and the January blues did nothing to help. I had a Skype interview scheduled for a job with an English language school, and was brushing up on the TEFL qualification I had taken the year before. I had zero expectations for our book, I knew it was good, but I had submitted work to editors and had been turned down so many times before.
Then, on Tuesday 17th January 2012, just as I was making a cheese toasty and contemplating the interview I had the following day, Ján came through to the kitchen and told me that one of the publishers we’d submitted the book to, had read the manuscript, loved it, and they wanted to publish it. Could we meet them in Bratislava the next afternoon!
I didn’t dare get too excited. The following morning, I did the Skype interview, which went well, then we took a snowy bus journey to Bratislava, and went to a small cafe just off the main square. The people from the publishing house were running late, and I thought at first that it was all a big joke, or that they had bailed on us. Then they arrived in a flurry of apologies and excited chatter. Coffee was ordered, and they said how much they loved the book, how funny it was, and how it would appeal to Slovak readers. They showed us a mock-up of the cover they had produced, and they said they wanted to publish it within the next six weeks! They also offered us an advance. It wasn’t a king’s ransom, just €500, but we were lucky enough to be living rent free, and the cost of living in Slovakia back then was very low, so it meant the wolf had, temporarily, left the door.
When I look back, so much of being a writer is about having belief. Belief in yourself and your ideas, belief from friends, a family member, or loved one. I spent so many years dreading being asked at a party what I did for a living. As an unpublished writer I’d often feel like a complete failure. Although, now I realise that I wasn’t. Every writer has to start somewhere. Every writer has to persevere against difficult conditions, where the odds feel stacked against them. I honestly thought I would never get published. It all seemed far out of reach. I was the last person who thought I would ever be able to make writing my full time job. I came close to giving up so many times. I dread to think what would have happened if I had!
So, back to the publication day… Mrcha Hollywood was published in March 2012 at a big launch event where I was interviewed by the press, where I signed books, and where I didn’t understand much of what was being said. They must have wondered who this rather nonplussed new author was! We were featured in every newspaper and magazine, there was a poster campaign in bookshops; we even went on Breakfast TV in Slovakia. Mrcha Hollywood quickly became a bestseller.
Within weeks, another publisher wanted to know if I had any books Ján could translate, so I dusted off the manuscript of The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard, and they bought it, and also hired Ján to translate. I also bluffed a little at the meeting that I was writing a Coco Pinchard sequel, and they asked to buy that also! This was the push I needed to keep writing.
We weren’t rich, but it bought us valuable time to write, and I was able to turn down the teaching job I’d been offered. It was with this little boost of confidence that we decided to go ahead and self-publish the English language versions of The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard and Lost in Crazytown through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.
Since then, it’s been a steady but exhilarating ride. I’ve taken steps forward and I’ve suffered setbacks, but I’ve kept moving, and more importantly, I’ve kept writing. The more you write, the better you get, and if a reader likes one of your books, they will always want to read more. Readers are the most important people. Writers should never forget this.
The long journey to get here has made me appreciate so much. I appreciate my husband who has supported me all the way, we are a real team; Team Bryndza Books rules! And I appreciate every reader who has talked about my books to a friend or family member, and the wonderful community of book bloggers who support so many new authors on social media. And lastly thank you to Oliver Rhodes, Claire Bord and everyone at my fabulous publisher, Bookouture. You all have so much faith in me, and you’ve given me such creative freedom and a platform to flourish and develop my crime thriller series.
I wanted to write this blog post to say thank you, and to also say that whatever you want to do with your life, it’s possible as long as you work hard, dream big, and never give up!