2015 was the worst year of my entire life.
I’ve talked, before, about losing my mother. Her absence – approaching and actual – filled my life.
I tried to mask the approaching nightmare by doing things – by keeping busy at work, by burying my head in the sand, by drinking and partying and being almost constantly outraged at everything other than the one looming outrage that deserved my fury, and by slowly, and almost unavoidably, falling apart emotionally and mentally.
“This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you,” my husband said to me one day as I sat, sucked up into myself as though to contain the howls in my head, “But it’s not the only think that’s currently happening to you. There is so much good happening to you. There is so much life to be lived.”
He meant well, but at the time, it was hard to appreciate his words.
And yet – partly to shut him up and allow me to be left alone with my rage and my red wine – I allowed myself to go through the motions of doing things, of living a normal life – I’d do my day job, I’d write, send my books out, wait for the inevitable rejections.
And then something miraculous happened.
A month after my mum died, I sent a book to a new publisher I’d heard about..
Fahrenheit Press were being set up by a guy I’d met earlier in the spring. He was almost a force of nature – a big bear-like creature with opinions the size of the Grand Canyon, an Ego the size of a small planet, and enthusiasms that blazed like the sacred heart. To quote Chris Lowe, he didn’t like much, but what he did like, he Loved Passionately.
He wanted to publish books, and he wanted to publish stuff that was new and fresh and fun, and I figured my book about a gay everyman who loses his job, finds his boyfriend in bed with the window cleaner, ends up running the worlds shittest gay bar and is then – on opening night- faced with the double whammy of a dead star turn and a burglary that means he’s in schtick with both the police and the local gangland boss, was at least some of those things.
I sent Death of a Diva to Fahrenheit Press on a Saturday afternoon, and sat back waiting for the inevitable rejection.
The email Response came in record time: they didn’t like the book. They loved it. They wanted to publish it. They were honest and pragmatic about where it might fit in to a market filled with dark gritty crime novels, but they were openly excited by it.
They quoted my own fucking jokes back at me.
I – days before – hadn’t believed I’d ever be happy again. I had come to accept that acting happy was the best I’d get – that smiling openly enough to let the people around me relax would be the nearest I’d ever get to feeling anywhere near glad to be alive.
I’d been wrong. Fahrenheit Press reminded me what it’s like to be glad to be alive. They warned me, of course, that an offer to publish a debut novel is a first step on a rocky road that can lead to nowhere – and often does for many people.
I didn’t care. My dream – a dream I had never allowed myself to even articulate – had come true.
I signed that contract on the 24th of August 2015 in – fittingly – a grimy pub in Covent Garden. My publisher was on a flying visit – running from one meeting to the next. I was still reeling from everything that had happened in the months before. It was an important meeting for both of us, but it wasn’t a huge glitzy dinner at the Ivy. It didn’t need to be. My feet didn’t touch the ground.
The book came out a few months later, and my year as a published author really kicked off.
I’ve been touched on almost a daily basis by the love, support, openness and sheer joy that I’ve received from so many in the Crime writing and publishing business. I won’t gush to you all; you know who you are, and you know how much I love you.
But I will take this moment to say thanks to the reviewers who’ve left so many five star reviews for Death of a Diva and Death of a Nobody on Amazon, reminding me, every time I read them, that my books have lives of their own beyond me, and to give a big hug to the Bloggers who’ve featured my witterings, who’ve given me a forum to flog my book (which quickly became two, and which will soon, I hope, become three), and who’ve been supportive and sweet.
I’m still grieving and I’m still, sometimes, furious and I’m still on a (more slowly moving) emotional rollercoaster, and I know that some of you have experienced my craziness and my sadness, but I want to send my love and my thanks to you all for all your support this year, to my Dad, who never lost faith, my husband who wouldn’t let me lose faith, my mam who never stopped dreaming for me, and encouraged my dreams, to my friends and family, who cheer me on every single day, and to Fahrenheit Press, who made my dreams come true.
I’m flying out today to Reykjavik to attend the Iceland Noir crime writing festival, and on 18th November – a year and a day to the date that Death of a Diva was published – will be appearing on the aptly named “The F*cking Swearing Panel” with Grant Nicholson, JS Law, Craig Robertson, and Her Majesty Val McDermid. It’s a dream come true, and finishes off a year I could never have dreamed would ever happen for me.
Here’s to the next year, and the one after that, and the one after that…
Here are some of my highlights of the year
Talking to Rachel Stirling (@Stirlingwriter) on rewrites:
A fun interview with the warm witty and generous Charlie Cochrane (@charliecochrane)
Talking to Byte The Book about how vital networking, and remaining open is (@BytetheBook) (December)
Sharing my average writing day with BritCrime (@BritCrime) (A Day in the Life)
Having one of the best ever Anniversary evenings with Mr Gray as a special guest on a BritCrime Panel Discussion with Helen Smith, Amanda Jennings, Douglas Skelton, Jay Stringer, Cally Taylor and an army of lovely writers readers and bloggers.
Going to my first ever CrimeFest in Bristol in the early summer, realising how it felt to be part of a community of writers, and how brilliant, funny and friendly crime readers really are.
Sharing my passion for The Three Investigators with Grab This Book (@grabthisbook) grabthisbook.net/?p=1874
Attending Killer Women in the wonderfully atmospheric Shoreditch Town Hall. Having Val McDermid write “All The Fucking Best” on my copy of “Out of Bounds.”
Sharing my first ever Book Trailer and loving the genuine pleasure expressed by so many.
Attending the UK MMMeet in Southampton and doing my first ever signing event. Fearing I wouldn’t sell or sign a copy, then realising at the end that I’d outdone even my wildest dreams. Lugging a bulging goodie bag back home, along with a bunch of great friendships.
Getting “Quite Fun” from Eric Idle, who gave me the best two words of encouragement EVER.
All the brilliant reviews and words of encouragement for both Diva and Nobody.