Helena Fairfax: Stumbling along the road to publication.
Hello, lovely Romaniacs, and thanks so much for having me on your blog. First things first, I’ve brought my trusty Tupperware container with me, and inside is a cake just crying to get out. Mmm…the heady aroma of a fresh chocolate and orange sponge…
Oh, you mean you’d like me to talk as well? I thought I’d just come to eat and drink tea. No? Oh, in that case I’d love to talk to you, let me just wipe this chocolate from my mouth…
Yes, I’m even happy to put down cake in order to tell you all about my first novel, The Silk Romance, which will be published next week – on the 24th May, to be exact, and I’m counting down the days!
As a former member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, The Romaniacs have asked me along to talk about my road to publication.
I remember once years ago coming home from yet another terrible day at the office, and moaning for the millionth time: grr, I hate my job! My long-suffering husband asked a simple question: what would you actually like to be doing with your life? My answer: writing romance novels. Next question: well, what do you need to do to get there?
I knew what I needed to do. ‘All’ I needed to do was to write a novel and get it published. Oh, the simplicity of those words! The path to making my wish come true has been long and tortuous, but never dull. And the final result is thrilling beyond everything!
It’s hard to say where the path first started, as I’ve been scribbling away for what seems to be forever. Maybe the first time I seriously thought I could make a go of it was when I sent off a first chapter to a writing competition. Sadly I didn’t win, but I received a very encouraging letter from the organisers. The editor who wrote to me talked about my characters as though they were real people.
Entering that competition finally gave me some confidence in myself – something I was sadly lacking – and having confidence in your ability to write is an essential first step.
My next step: joining the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. There was a story in my head, but I had a lot to learn about how to get it down on paper in a way that readers would really enjoy.
I passed through the New Writers’ Scheme twice. The first year, I sent off just the first three chapters and a synopsis of the novel. I wasn’t entirely sure if I was on the right lines, and my reservations were right. I received a four page, highly detailed letter explaining exactly why the story still wasn’t quite right, and some suggestions on what to do to polish it up.
(If you’re interested in the nitty gritty of my reader’s observations on my particular book, I’ve written a post on my blog outlining exactly what her advice was.)
I took my reader’s brilliant and extensive comments to heart, and rejoined the NWS for another year. I was really excited about finishing my novel, and took both great pains and great pleasure in manipulating the characters and the emotional conflict, to make sure all my reader’s advice was followed.
By the end of the year, I finally had a finished novel. I sent it off to the RNA again, waited with bitten fingernails for a response – and finally, hooray! My reader loved it! Just a couple of tweaks required, and not even any need for a second reading. Hooray again! This should be the part where I jacked in my job and made millions. Oh, if only life were so simple…
I sent off my novel to a publisher and waited. And waited. And waited. And began writing another.
Then I finally heard from the publisher…and it wasn’t good news. They enjoyed my story, but it wasn’t right for their line. So… back to the drawing-board, and back to continuing with novel two. I had confidence in myself now, I had some encouraging words from editors and professional writers, and I had the determination to succeed. What could go possibly go wrong?
One thing I have learnt from my experience in life, above all else, is that we have these neat little plans and we follow them, thinking we are going somewhere, but fate almost always has other ideas. I suffered a terrible tragedy that stopped me writing for a very, very long time. I put away my novel, moved out of the house I’d lived in for twenty five years, bought a smaller place in need of renovation, and spent an entire year doing it up. Painting and digging the garden were the sort of occupations I could engage in that didn’t require any concentration. My mind was shot. By the time I felt able to open my lap-top again, the world of publishing had changed in a dramatic way. Writers such as Amanda Hocking and E.L. James were making massive success stories for themselves with e-books.
I revisited the first novel I’d written and thought, hey – a professional romance author at the RNA really liked this story. Just because it wasn’t accepted at one publisher doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try another. And what about e-books? E-book romances have taken off in an incredible way. So, I started looking around on the internet for other publishers who might be interested. After a lot of research, one publisher seemed to draw me more than all the others. Since starting in 2010, MuseItUp Publishing has made a name for itself as a growing e-publisher, with a supportive and friendly ethos. I submitted The Silk Romance to them. After all, I had nothing to lose…
…and everything to gain. They absolutely loved it, and offered me a contract. Since then, they’ve also offered me a contract on my second novel, The Antique Love. I’m now writing my third.
I wish I could give proper professional advice on how to get published, but I feel I’ve just been stumbling along the road trying my best. One thing I do know is, joining the NWS was invaluable. It gave me confidence in myself and determination to continue writing. I also ended up with a story I really loved. I had great faith in my characters to leap off the page and to be engaging.
Here’s the blurb to The Silk Romance:
Jean-Luc Olivier is a devastatingly handsome racing-driver with the world before him. Sophie Challoner is a penniless student, whose face is unknown beyond her own rundown estate in London. The night they spend together in Paris seems to Sophie like a fairytale—a Cinderella story without the happy ending. She knows she has no part in Jean-Luc’s future. She made her dying mother a promise to take care of her father and brother in London. One night of happiness is all Sophie allows herself. She runs away from Jean-Luc and returns to England to keep her promise.
Safely back home with her father and brother, and immersed in her college work, Sophie tries her best to forget their encounter, but she reckons without Jean-Luc. He is determined to find out why she left him, and intrigued to discover the real Sophie. He engineers a student placement Sophie can’t refuse, and so, unwillingly, she finds herself back in France, working for Jean-Luc in the silk mill he now owns.
Thrown together for a few short weeks in Lyon, the romantic city of silk, their mutual love begins to grow. But it seems the fates are conspiring against Sophie’s happiness. Jean-Luc has secrets of his own. Then, when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep the sacred promise she made her mother.
The Silk Romance is available on pre-order here in the Muse bookstore, and from 24th May will also be available from Amazon and all major e-tailers.
If you’ve enjoyed my post, please call in on my blog: www.helenafairfax.com, or on my Facebook page. You can also email me at Helena(dot)Fairfax(at)gmail(dot)com. I love meeting people
If you’d like to know a little more about me, here’s my author bio:
Helena Fairfax was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now and that’s just as well, because nowadays she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, right next door to windswept Brontë country. She has an affectionate, if half-crazed, rescue dog and together they tramp the moors every day—one of them wishing she were Emily Brontë, the other vainly chasing pheasants. When she’s not out on the moors you’ll find Helena either creating romantic heroes and heroines of her own or else with her nose firmly buried in a book, enjoying someone else’s stories. Her patient husband and her brilliant children support her in her daydreams and are the loves of her life.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Romaniacs! I love reading your posts, and really look forward to your weekly chat, especially the cake. Although I see there isn’t a great deal left of the one I brought! Hmm…how did that happen?
Many thanks, Helena, and it was our pleasure hosting you. Congratulations on your publishing contract and best wishes for the future.
I have no idea what happened to that delicious cake…