The internet. The glorious thing that is the world wide web. That is how my journey to becoming a published author began. It is a journey that is very different to most people’s, it is a journey that many authors frown on too- I have since discovered to my dismay.
They frown and raise eyebrows because I didn’t toil for years and suffer the soul-sucking devastation of doors being slammed in my face and endless rejection. (This seems to be considered a right of passage as an author) Instead, my journey was an almost overnight affair, which let me assure you, comes with its own set of unique challenges.
I had no intention of becoming an author in the first place. In fact, it was the last thing on my mind at that stage of my life. I had a very established career, I ran one company and was a partner in another and mainly worked as a TV scriptwriter and storyliner (the person that makes up the stories for the TV show) But one day, as I sat in front of my computer reading a mail from a commissioning editor at our big South African network, I got very disillusioned. Let me not go into why I was disillusioned, that is a blog all on its own.
I longed to break out of the confines of my small country on the Southern tip of Africa. I longed for my work to reach a wider, international audience.
So I hit the internet. I Googled, “Write overseas” which yielded a million strange results. I then started Googling “Writing Internationally” and so it went on, until I stumbled on an international book writing contest. The annual So You Think You Can Write by Harlequin, hosted on a writing platform I had never heard about called Wattpad.
The deadline was 3 weeks away and I was like, Ok… I can write a book. I’ve never written one before, in fact, I’ve never even read a romance novel in my entire life! (True story) I read crime thrillers and non-fiction books on Physics and the universe.
But hey… what the hell, right? So I sat down, got an idea and just started writing, posting all my work on Wattpad as I went. In three weeks I had accumulated 22, 000 reads on Wattpad, and bizarrely, bizarrely, bizarrely, I won the competition along with some other amazing writers. And then the book just took off on Wattpad like a crazy thing. It was totally out of my control and it just seemed to have a life of it’s own.
And then BAM… I was offered a 3 books deal. And BAM again, another publisher offered me a deal and so it escalated so fast that my head spun! I realized that in order to pursue this as a career, I would need to dive in head first. I don’t do things in a half-hearted manner. When I do, I do obsessively. So I closed my companies, bold move, took my savings and started writing books.
Things continued to escalate when I got an agent, Erica Spellman at The Trident Media group (only the best literary agency in the world) I say this not to boast, but to try and paint an adequate picture of how I felt when she emailed me and said, “please call me at your earliest convenience.” I cannot, cannot explain the shock, the sheer slap-through-the-face shock when this happened. I cannot express how nervous I was when I called her and I cannot express the strange, surrealness of the moment when she said she would represent me. A day later- literally- she forwarded me email correspondence that she had had with Grand Central Publishing in which they showed interest in my book.
And BAM… I got a three- book deal. The foreign rights were then sold and it will be translated into German, French and Italian.
My head still spins, I still feel like this is not real. I feel like I got dropped into the big leagues and I don’t even know what sport I am meant to be playing. Other authors have had years of practice leading up to the day they get published. They have had ample ‘warning’, I had nothing. I was thrown in head first with no knowledge of the industry at all. I sound ungrateful, but believe me, I am not. I think I am still in a state of shock and am only now settling into my new career, one which was almost thrust on me by accident.
You might be thinking at this stage that I hardly had to work to get this- that is what a lot of people assume. But let me assure you, that I have never worked so hard in my entire life. I wrote my first book, Burning Moon, in 3 weeks, with almost no sleep. And in the last two years I have subsequently written 7 books.
I have now been ‘playing’ at being a full-time author for just over two years now. I say ‘playing’ because I still don’t know what the F I am doing. My books have been read 18 million times, MILLION, on Wattpad and I sit with an agent and publishing deals and am officially making a good living doing it (Mainly due to the fact that our South African Rand is so shitty, and for every $1 I receive, I get R16) I still feel like if I pinch myself, I am going to wake up from all of this.
It has been the craziest ride of my life, and at age 35 I think I have actually found the thing I am meant to be doing. It took me more than ten years to find it, and I found it accidentally, but I’m doing it now and hope it will continue. I hope my career as an author is not going to be as ‘over-night’ as my path to becoming one was. This is a very real fear I have.
I have no idea what the moral of this story is, I think it is along the lines of ‘just put yourself out there‘ because you never know what will come back. The deadline forced me to write without thinking too hard, and there was no room for procrastinating. Look for writing competitions, I swear by them. It is the one way to assure your work is seen by the right people.
That is the nutshell version, I’ll give more details later on!