LCOAW: Six Years At The Bus Stop (Avoiding the slush pile)

Strictly speaking six years at the bus stop is an underestimation. My quest for a literary agent started when I was about twenty-one and didn’t have a clue what I was up to. So, to be absolutely accurate, and for anyone good at math you can work out my age, it’s really been fourteen years at the bus stop.

In my first, very naive attempts to get an agent, I sent the first three chapters of a book called Child Y?. I wrote it at university and it was way too short and proved how much I didn’t know. Friends read it and enthused and I had one handwritten response, but every other submission was followed up with standard rejections. I left University as a qualified physiotherapist and was soon too busy to even tinker with writing until ill-health caused me to consider a career change.

This time I didn’t want to find a literary agent through the more traditional route of searching through the Writers and Artists Yearbook and sending off submissions. In my earlier attempt I’d found it a bit disheartening and faceless. Those six years at the bus stop were spent making contacts, having one-to-ones, gaining feedback, making friends, and learning where to source up-to-date information. It might have been a longer route, but it was a way of avoiding the slush pile. In the end, I had two offers of representation and I’m delighted to say I’ve signed with Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. 

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In no particular order, these are the ways I found to approach agents without being part of the slush pile:

  • Entering competitions – sometimes literary agents are judges and it’s a way for them to potentially read your work or even meet them. I entered the London Book Fair Write Stuff competition and ended up on the stage pitching to a Dragon Den style panel of agents.
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    I’m the pink dot on the stage

  • Online events like #PitchCB – This is a monthly event that takes place where you can pitch your book and potentially get invited to submit your work.
  • Open submission periods – There are occasions when publishing houses and agencies will have a featured submission period. For example, United Agents held an open house across August.
  • Friends recommendations – Often writers will know when agents are looking to add to their list and in what particular genre.
  • One-to-ones – Conferences often offer the opportunity to have one-to-ones with agents and publishers. It was as a result of a one-to-one that I ended up signing with Carina.

I’m lucky enough to have had success with all the above in one way or another in a close space of time, but it’s important to remember that it was the result of sitting at the bus stop for years and years. And for every bus that flew by, spraying water on me as it went by, I never stopped tapping at the keyboard or believing that one day, if I worked hard enough, the buses would start stopping for me.

If you’re on the quest for an agent, the secret isn’t in never giving up, the real secret is to never stop typing.

Catherine x

All That is Left of Us Blog Tour: Meerkat Research

Creating Owerdale Zoo: The Research

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When I first pitched this book to my editor, the zoo was always going to be central to the story. In essence it was going to be a tale of three mums who regular met at the zoo to catch up. This was the original pitch:

Never work with animal and children, but a weekly coffee can’t hurt, right?

When three old school pals meet at an antenatal class, they decide to support each other through motherhood and get an annual pass to the zoo to meet once a week. But as past secrets come out, and a meerkat becomes a changing bag stowaway, will they make it through their maternity leave as friends, or enemies?

The book evolved from the original idea to be focused on Dawn who is acting as surrogate for her sister-in-law, Rebekah. But the meerkat idea was still going to be central and turned into the best research I’ve ever had to do.

At the point of only having a story outline, I needed to do some research to find out as much as I could about meerkat behaviour. In All That is Left of Us, Dawn’s son, Archie, is obsessed with the Owerdale Zoo meerkats and spends every Saturday morning documenting what they’re up to so it was important to have as much knowledge as possible.

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When it came to research, books and documentaries weren’t going to be enough so I contacted Paulton’s Park to see if they could help. They have their own mob of meerkats so I asked if anyone would be able to answer some of the weird and wonderful questions I had in relation to the storyline. Thankfully, they were really helpful and I met with the livestock manager, Geoff Masson, and he helped answer all of my questions regarding meerkats and their behaviour. I’ve tried to portray them as accurately as possible and any mistakes are my own. I have to confess to this being one of my favourite parts of the novel. The friendship Archie has with the meerkats is very real and his relationship with animals reflects that this is a story of love in its many forms, even the ones we don’t understand.

I really hope any readers of All That is Left of Us enjoy the relationship between Archie and his meerkats as much as I enjoyed researching and writing about them.

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Now I just need to decide what research to incorporate into the next book.

Catherine xx

All That is Left of Us Cover Reveal

Romaniac HQ is currently in a state of keyboards being bashed (never has our word count totals been so high) and screaming children wanting our attention as we navigate the summer holidays. It has been a crazy period of number 1 Amazon bestsellers, award winners and shortlistings. To keep up with all the latest Romaniac news make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter as there is so much excitement afoot.

Today, I’m delighted to be able to share the front cover for my second novel, All That is Left of Us. To sum it up, it’s about the aftermath of surrogacy within a family…

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One of My Own…

Dawn loves being a mother. No matter how Archie came into her life, or the fact he’s a little different from other children, he is precious and loved. He is hers, after all. Especially because she’s never told anyone who the father of her son is.

So when Dawn’s twin brother David and his wife Rebekah are struggling to have their own child, Dawn agrees to become their surrogate, as it is the one thing she can do to help.

However, creating the perfect family doesn’t always go to plan and when Dawn realises just how much her nephew needs his mother, she begins to wonder if the time has finally come to confront the past she has kept secret for so long.

From the author of Waiting for You comes a story of friendship, motherhood and hope.

Roving Romaniacs Meet Kirstie Allsopp & Go To A Party

Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Kirstie, Catherine & Debbie

Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Kirstie, Catherine & Debbie

Thursday 19th May 2016 was a big day for The Romaniacs, but particularly for Catherine Miller. Catherine’s debut novel, Waiting For You, was nominated for the prestigious Joan Hessayon Award, the winner of which was to be announced that evening in London at the Romantic novelists’ Association’s Summer Party.

The day began with five Romaniacs and Mr Miller departing from various parts of the country, all heading for our favourite London hotel. After a quick catch-up and a change into our multipurpose daywear/eveningwear frocks, we took a taxi to our second port of call that day – Kirstie Allsopp’s house. For afternoon tea. As one does.

Our Catherine is masterful when it comes to winning competitions and tea with Kirstie Allsopp was first prize in a competition run by Home Start, ‘a national family support charity that helps parents to build better lives for their children.’

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The second port of call was the RNA’s Summer Party, where we met up with our writing friends and colleagues and celebrated our debut novelists whose books had been through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and achieved publication. Our congratulations to everyone nominated and to the over-all winner, Clare Harvey.

Here are our memories of that busy, fun day.

Laura: What an incredible day. First of all, I’d like to thank Catherine for inviting me to share her prize – meeting Kirstie Allsopp was a wonderful experience. And what a lovely family and house she has. I found Kirstie to be warm, charming, funny and very down-to-earth. The evening was wonderful, too, catching up with writing friends, cheering on our debut novelists and meeting a few of our street team Sparklers. I got to bed at 02:00, but what an amazing day.

Vanessa: It was SUCH a fabulous day. It always is catching up with my lovely fellow Romaniacs, but this time with the added bonus of meeting Kirstie and getting to drink lots of prosecco in her beautiful home – and see her shoes! So many beautiful shoes… The evening was amazing, as always: I always love the RNA parties because they give me the chance to meet up with fellow writers in the most glamorous and friendly of environments. The prosecco headache the next day was totally worth it! Shoes

Debbie: I’ll confess; Kirstie is my ‘girl crush!’ I’ve long admired her so was very excited when Catherine invited me along.FullSizeRender (4) Bubbly, cake and laughter all afternoon – what could be better? Kirstie was so welcoming and every bit as warm and lovely as she appears on TV. The evening was great fun too and super, as always, to catch up with my RNA writer friends. My jaws ached more than usual the following day having spent the whole day and evening grinning from ear to ear, laughing and chatting! IMG_0437

 

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Celia: This was a very special day for us all, and for me it marked the start of a new chapter. Retiring from work will give me time to meet more writing people and catch up with the Romaniacs more often, so the party and the fabulous Kirstie visit  were a great way to celebrate the next stage. My husband worked as a brewers’ scientist for years and the Allsopp family of brewers are a big part of Burton-on-Trent’s heritage so spotting all the memorabilia on her walls was interesting. Seeing our lovely Catherine in the JH line up was even more heart-warming – as the oldest Romaniac, that was definitely a  proud mummy moment, and her wonderful Dan put up with a hoard of over-excited women very bravely all day too and was chief photographer to boot!

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Life Cycle Of A Writer: When It All Happens At Once

The writing life is full of waiting and I’ve discovered in more recent months that when it does happen, it all happens at once! Following a successful book launch for Waiting for You, I then had my deadline to reach for Book Two.

Sending the next book in was more than nerve-wracking. I’m so used to getting other’s opinions and I didn’t get the chance this time so I was thrilled when my editor informed me that it’s wonderful! So I’m delighted to be able to share the title and bio for my second book:

All That Is Left Of Us

One of My Own…

Dawn loves being a mother. No matter how Archie came into her life, or the fact he’s a little different from other children, he is precious and loved. He is hers, after all. Especially because she’s never told anyone who the father of her son is.

So when Dawn’s twin brother David and his wife Rebekah are struggling to have their own child, Dawn agrees to become their surrogate, as it is the one thing she can do to help.

However, creating the perfect family doesn’t always go to plan and when Dawn realises just how much her nephew needs his mother, she begins to wonder if the time has finally come to confront the past she has kept secret for so long.

It has gone up on Amazon for preorder today! So if you want to help me through this round of revisions please click preorder. It’s due out in September.

If that wasn’t enough excitement for the week (bearing in mind it is only Tuesday), I’m now able to share the news that Waiting for You has been shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award this year in a stellar list with 14 other friends and authors.

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The results for that will be announced at the RNA Summer Party on May 19th. I had my photos taken by the talented Chris Neaves of Neaves Brothers Photography and although I now have some super serious author shots, don’t be concerned, in real life it’s business as usual:

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With all that having happened over the course of a couple of months, I need a spa day to rejuvenate. It’s a shame my twin girls have other ideas! Why is it all the excitement is always clustered? Maybe it’s because the powers that be know I need a lengthy period to recover.

Catherine x

LCOAW – Getting Marketing Right

The title of this post is a bit misleading. In order to talk about getting marketing right, I’d have to have some concept of whether I was achieving that myself. And to be fair, I haven’t got a Scooby Doo.

My degree in Physiotherapy and the months of catching five minutes to write while looking after my twin girls haven’t exactly primed me for the Buy My Book phase of being an author. But here I am with just over two weeks to go before my debut novel is out and ARRGGHHH I’m so unprepared for this! I’m not in a position to spend hours at a laptop sending out suggestive hints as to why Waiting for You should be THE BOOK you buy today. So I’ve tried to promote the book in some other ways in an attempt to be a bit different, but also to allow the marketing to fit in with family life.

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Firstly, I did a promo day as a Facebook event. I called it Don’t Wait for… Waiting for You and it was with the aim of getting all those who were considering purchasing the book to do it on a single day. As there were prizes, it also attracted some others to pre-order. Overall it worked well to spread the word about the book and allowed me to concentrate my efforts on a single day and it was something slightly different to the Publication Day parties that are often popular.

As this is my first book and I have worked so bloody hard over several years to get to this stage, I wanted to make sure I did something special to send it on its way. Having harnessed my inner Milly Johnson (Milly does the best book launch parties) and read Jane Wenham-Jones’ Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of, I now have the perfect (rather unique) spot for my book launch – The Oasis Down to Earth Farm, a local community farm.

Book Launch

It was an interesting challenge trying to think of the perfect place to launch a book that is digital first so not necessarily suitable for a more traditional book shop venue. In the end I think I’ve ended up with something that will be unique and exciting and it’s great to think the day will be raising funds for the farm. If you are local to Southampton and free that day it would be great to see you there.

As well as both these things I’ll be doing my share of tweeting, FBing and a blog tour supported by Carina. Because all in all I’m not sure what works. Not when my degree taught me the origin and insertion of every muscle in the human body and not the persuasive charms of selling books. I figure I’ll do it in a way that I enjoy and hope that in turn people will enjoy Waiting for You.

To finish, on a totally unrelated note, please BUY MY BOOK😉

Til next time,

Catherine x

Follow up Friday

So… how did we do with our targets this week?

Vanessa:

  1. I’m on target with my edits – I need to finish the final polishing of the wip this week ready to…
  2. Send the wip off to my agent!!

I did it!!! Finished the polishing of my edits Tuesday night and pressed send! Now it’s time to obsessively stalk my email in-box…

  1. Finish a short story for a mid-Feb deadline (still on the list from last time!!)

Sort of… Didn’t manage to finish the short story but I have written a new flash fiction piece for another competition. 300 words instead of 3000🙂

  1. Non-writing related: when the wip has gone off, do some very neglected housework!

We’ll say no more about this one!

Catherine:

I’ve only written 500 words of the 5,000 word target, but there is still the weekend to go and I have babysitters to help get me to my deadline!

I have a nice shiny loooonnngggg TTD list.

Relocation occurring on Saturday!

 

How has everyone else got on this week?