Third Book Birthday

 

It’s coming up on three years since I published by first indie romance title and I’m feeling a bit nostalgic and, I’ll admit it, I’m also feeling proud.

In not-quite-three-years I have had more than ten #1 bestsellers on the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk romance erotica charts. I’ve been in the top fifteen exclusive authors (across all genres) for more than twenty months in the UK and in the top one hundred in the States, on their Amazon stores. I’ve had an iTunes #2 bestseller, #1 on the romance charts. I have signed a multi-book deal with Harlequin Mills & Boon and I’m now heading towards a million digital sales of my indie titles alone.

WOW, that makes my head spin!!

You see, this so nearly didn’t happen. I’ve written for as long as I can remember – I completed and submitted my first romance manuscript at fifteen years of age, but like most writers, I received rejections in those early days (very, very, very wise rejections 😜).

I went to uni, then travelled with my husband, and while living in London above a fish and chip shop that smelled like rancid oil and next door to a pub that sounded like broken beer bottles and bad jazz (yes, such a thing exists, in SW13, trust me), I began to write in earnest. I had an idea for a story and I wanted to get it down and despite working long hours (and factoring in several more for pinot grigio overlooking the Thames) I managed to finish a manuscript.

I tweaked it while pregnant with my son and working full time, and finally submitted it some time after he was born. My husband and I toasted that milestone and I think, naively, I believed that would be ‘it’. That I would get an acceptance and be published. It was 2010, and it would be five years before I self-published and six before Harlequin finally ‘bought’ me.

It didn’t matter.

I was bitten by the bug and all I wanted to do was write.

It’s not easy, you know. I worked in a different job when my little guy was small, and when I had my daughter, I took ‘time off’, but in reality, I had a very demanding little guy on my hands and a daughter who seemed insistent on not-sleeping. Finding time to write was tricky, and making those words GOOD trickier still.

The Italian Billionaire's BetrayalHowever, I ended up writing a book that I was really, really proud of. THE ITALIAN BILLIONAIRE’S BETRAYAL (yep, it has a different cover now) had everything I loved about sexy romance novels. Deception-from-a-good-place, billionaire alpha, sassy heroine, and a dark moment that won’t quit.  Not to mention a very sexy, convincing happily ever after. It sustained a top 100 erotica ranking on the US store for over a month, a top 1000 sales ranking overall. And it was MY book! I don’t even remember now if I submitted it to Harlequin… I must have, because I had a moment of feeling very, very downbeat and like I might quit – surely that followed a rejection.

And here’s where I feel especially nostalgic, grateful and amazed. Because I wanted to quit. I really, really, really wanted to accept that I’d never make anything out of this writing business and let it go. But my sister, a writer (a wonderful writer of all things historical, secretive, mysterious and beautiful) told me she wouldn’t let me quit – that I needed to try self-publishing. My husband had been saying the same thing for many years, and between the two of them, I listened. Finally.

Amazon has this amazing graphing system – you can literally refresh it minute-by-minute and see as people buy your books! I didn’t refresh it a lot initially … but by the end of the month, when I checked, I’d sold a lot of copies. I couldn’t believe it! People were reading MY book! The next month, I had sold even more… Somehow, I’d turned my love for writing into a viable career and it almost seemed to have happened overnight (that kind of overnight that actually lasts a decade).

Three years later, and here I am – a bonafide writer (totally doing a happy dance as I type that).

It’s not any easier to squeeze out the time to write. My kids are still young, and my husband works long hours, but I love what I do –I wake up every day aching to ‘go to work’ and get words down. My stories absorb me. The day they don’t is the day I’ll hang up my typing tips. Until then, I will write, and I will be grateful that I have this opportunity.

If you’re part of this rather magical organisation, THE ROMANCE WRITERS OF AUSTRALIA, I’ll be taking part in a panel on self-publishing at the upcoming conference, and I’ll also be running a round table where I’ll talk about, well, anything my attendees want, actually. Maybe juggling parenthood with writer hood, writing while working full time, not losing faith, seriously, anything!

Also, I’m going to take this opportunity to apologise for any upcoming book-birthday spam. Apparently I’m a typical threenager, driven purely by my Id. 💋 CC.x

 

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Best Movies for Love… Actually.

Whenever I’m in between writing books, I nurture my inspiration by reading voraciously and watching movies that make my heart sing. And it’s the same movies that draw me in, begging to be watched again and again and again because they’re just so reliably GOOD.

I was thinking about this last night, as Sleepless in Seattle finished and the credits rolled and I wondered what I’d turn to next, and therefore I present my listicle of amazing, lovely, heart-warming films for quiet nights in, especially when your own inner-creativity needs a little chillaxin’.


1. SWEET HOME ALABAMA.

This fun take on the love triangle trope is fresh, sexy and full of heart. I love that Andrew Hennings, the fiancĂ©-turned-spurned-loved is a really great guy. She didn’t not love him because he was evil or dark, she just “gave her heart away, her whole heart, a really long time ago,” and she never really got it back.

Pair it with: beer and crisps.


2. PRETTY WOMAN

A classic. I love how Vivian breaks down Edward’s boundaries and humanises him, making him vulnerable in a whole new way. I also like that she was strong enough to leave when he didn’t show his respect. Then there’s that fashion scene and the slap down to the haughty boutique assistants! A benchmark of the billionaire stories that I so adore.

Pair with: champagne and strawberries, obviously (dental floss too for those annoying little seedy things).


3. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY

This has been a long time favourite for me. The dialogue between Harry and Sally is so quick and witty, so delightfully organic, you feel like you’re a fly on the wall of their lives rather than an outside spectator. There’s such an incredible depth of heart to their characters– and the New Year’s Eve scene is a perfect Happily Ever After. I fall in love with Harry, Sally and all of New York. And I LOVE Carrie Fisher as Sally’s tell-it-like-it-is, super-cynical bestie Marie.

The soundtrack is amazing, too Harry Connick Jr in his absolute prime.

Then, there’s this scene…


Pair it with: A white wine spritzer. If you don’t have that, then a fruity Chardonnay, served at room temperature, with a bucket of ice, but on the side. Chipped ice, not blocks. And if no ice, then just the wine but not at room temperature, chilled from the fridge.


4. THE LUCKY ONE

Of all the Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations, this would have to be my favourite, followed closely by SAFE HAVEN (swoon). There’s so much drama in this that my tummy gets all achey and flip-floppy but it’s beautiful and spell-binding and you genuinely fall in love with all the characters.

If you haven’t seen it, keep an eye out for the shower scene- steamy in more ways than one. It should come with a defibrillator.


Pair it with: A cold shower.


5. EVER AFTER

An early nineties’ adaptation of Cinderella that is unexpectedly strong on feminist ideals. Henri is a bit of a childish prince at the start and it’s through meeting Danielle (Cinderella) that he comes to appreciate his birthright and good fortune. She also has to rescue him a heap of times – love it.

The production brings depth to the classic fairy tale, setting the story against the backdrop of Renaissance France and giving Danielle a fairy godmother with a twist… Leonardo Da Vinci is called on to save the day, but I believe Prince Henri would have come to his senses eventually. Searing sensuality and chemistry between the leads and yet still totally fine to watch with younger people, there’s a great comeuppance for the stepmother (masterfully played by Anjelica Houston)… I’ve practically worn holes in my copy of this.


Pair it with: It has to be French champagne and a hint of rebellion.


6. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Or “sleepless” as those in a long-term relationship with this film feel free to call it. This is a go-to for a movie with emotional depth but all the hallmarks of a classic Nora Ephron. The grief stricken Sam Baldwin is played perfectly by Hanks and somehow Meg Ryan manages to make Annie sweet and hopeful rather than the commitable-stalker we all know she’d be in real life. Jesus, I feel bad if I’m Facebook stalking someone and accidentally like their pictures; Annie hires an investigator to take photographs of some guy she heard on the radio (and his son!). Not to mention calling all the Baldwins she could find in the rudimentary whitepages.com to narrow it down. Yet it’s never a surprise when Sam takes her hand at the end and says, “Shall we?” (Though IRL you’d be walking away whistling and silently signalling deep panic to security). This is another love triangle that manages to make the jilted fiancĂ© a really great guy, which causes the connection of the winning couple to somehow seem more special. It’s not like there was anything wrong with door number one, but door number two was perfect.

PAIR IT WITH: A bottle of Dom Delouise. Oh, make that Dom Perignon. Scratch that, I have a feeling you’d actually prefer Grey Goose straight up.


7. DIRTY DANCING

Obviously this was coming. Who doesn’t love a spot of Johnny Castle (I hope you read that as castle rhyming with Ass because mmm). This coming of age story is just perfection, from the controlling yet lovable dad to Baby’s defiant vulnerability and Johnny’s slow, perfect falling in love, DIRTY DANCING is huge on heart.

Pair it with: Tempranillo, light, spicy and entirely quaffable and a danish that’s pure protein.


8. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER

This movie found its way to me because of its repeated references in SLEEPLESS, and I have found myself describing the last scene, getting teary and choked up and I recounted Deborah Kerr’s little legs and the moment Carry Grant realises who she  is and why she didn’t come to him. I’m ready just writing this! It’s a must see. Long, slow build up that makes you feel like you’re as much a part of the cruise as they are, it’s the kind of movie that they just don’t make nowadays.

Pair it with: Tissues. Lots of tissues.

 

What have I missed out?? Any films I should consider venturing out to?