Barbara Copperthwaite



June 2018

The first blogger review for THE PERFECT FRIEND has been published! via @about_thethrill

‘A whole bunch of lying & a whole lot of surprises!’
The first blog posted their review of THE PERFECT FRIEND. What did they have to say? Well, I’m very relieved to report that they loved it – giving it a fabulous FIVE STARS!
‘A whole bunch of lying and a whole lot of surprises in this book!’ writes It’s All About The Thrill.
I love that, as an emergency nurse, she appreciated how accurate my depiction of certain characters was.
She reveals: ‘Being an Emergency Room nurse myself, I deal with people going through major life events and I get to see how they cope with it. I felt the author really captured how people that are so consumed with anorexia function. Alex had to lie to cover up more lies. It was a way of life for her.’
So just who is behind It’s All About The Thrill. In the ‘About’ section of her blog, reviewer Kim reveals she ‘loves to read a good thriller. Just a little something to keep the adrenaline going while I am not at work.’
She adds: ‘I have been writing reviews on Goodreads and NetGalley for a while now and creating a blog seemed liked the natural progression. My goal is to connect with other readers that share my love of books. I want to share with others my thoughts on my favorite books and authors.’
So what makes the perfect read for Kim (although there’s a pretty obvious clue in the name of her blog!).
‘My favorite type of author is able to pull you into their story and then throw a twist in that leaves you shocked and wanting more!’
I’m so proud that THE PERFECT FRIEND has achieved just that. To read the review in full on It’s All About The Thrill, click here.
THE PERFECT FRIEND is published on 5 July

The story behind my Dedication: How loss created The Perfect Friend #amwriting #writerslife #ThePerfectFriend

‘Have you ever looked at a dedication and wondered about the person? Who they are, what the connection is with the author? If there is a story behind the handful of words?’

Last night I dreamed about one-star reviews. The pre-publications nerves have definitely kicked in! I’m more nervous about this book coming out than I’ve been about others, because it means so much more to me, in some ways, than the others have. Why? Because it is dedicated to my uncle Norman.

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Have you ever looked at a dedication and wondered about the person? Who they are, what the connection is with the author? If there is a story behind the handful of words? I often have, so I’m sharing this with you.

Norman Price was my uncle; a man who spent his life working hard, who always had a smile his face and a joke his lips, and who always saw good in people. Uncle Norman lost his long fight with cancer at the end of August 2017, the same time as I was mulling over ideas for a new story. He was my godfather, and his middle name, Leslie, was bestowed to me in the female form, Lesley. It’s no surprise, then, that his death coloured my thoughts, and the result is my fifth psychological thriller, The Perfect Friend, the writing of which helped me immensely to work through a lot of grief.

The theme of dealing with various forms of loss bleeds through the book, staining every character in ways large and small. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as there are little tributes to my uncle that also put a smile on my face.

The main character is called Alex Appleby, and I chose her surname because Uncle Norman lived in Appleby Parva.

I’m terrible at choosing names for characters, which is one of the reasons I love to hold competitions to name them after a reader, as a thank you for all your support. So, when I was trying to think of a name for one of the male characters, Leon sprung to mind, after my uncle’s son-in-law (my cousin Julie’s namesake had already been killed off in Flowers For The Dead).

For all these reasons, it matters that much more this time that people like the book, not for me, but for my uncle’s memory. I don’t want to let him down. In my heart, I know that he would be proud of both me and The Perfect Friend no matter what, but I want it to be the best it can be for him. With only three weeks until publication day on 5 July, I don’t have long to wait until the verdicts come in. Let’s hope the dream about one-star reviews isn’t a premonition!

My journey to publication: ‘Crowdfunding: an egalitarian, democratic form of publishing’ Julia Thum @JuliaThumWrites #authorchat #writerslife

There used to be one way only to become a successful author: first get an agent, then land a publishing deal. That was it. Now, there are numerous routes – which can make it both easier and harder to know what to do. In a short series, authors share their fascinating personal journey to publication with me. Today it’s author JULIA THUM…

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Julia Thum co-writes adult fiction under the pen name Ginger (Riverside Lane is now available as a paperback and ebook) and reviews children’s fiction on her website. Her first children’s novel, The Witches’ Punchbowl is currently in submission.

“When I’m not writing, I’m happiest out in the fresh air; on my kayak paddling up the Thames, jogging along the towpath or walking my dog Rumpole. I occasionally do a bit of cooking and enjoy that, as well as helping the kids with their six tortoises and four rabbits that crawl and hop around our garden. I can also be found doing the odd headstand under a tree when the wind is in the east

Other stuff – I am a member of The Society of Authors and The Society of Women Writers and Journalists. I am proud to be a Samaritan listening volunteer and visit secondary schools as part of their school team. I am passionate about the new #BookBuddy initiative and am collecting books from far and wide to give to the local schools with whom I am linked. And I absolutely love my secret missions as The Bray Book Fairy, sharing stories and literacy in unlikely and unexpected places.”


Julia says: ‘Thank you so much for having me on your blog today Barbara. It is a delight to be here to talk to you about our crowdfunding experience and to have dug out that triumphant screenshot saved as “FUNDED!”

I had never heard of crowdfunding until I embarked on the path to publication for Riverside Lane. Now, having raised £9,000 through Kickstarter, I cannot believe this egalitarian, democratic form of publishing passed me by for so long. I co-authored Riverside Lane under the pen name Ginger Black and it was published by Momentum Books who required us to raise £9,000 on Kickstarter to get the book off the ground.

Having dreamed up and co-written a novel, honed our social media skills and developed the Ginger Black brand, my friends and family already thought I was ambitious but few understood the most challenging of all projects was yet to come; that of setting up and running a successful crowdfunding campaign. Indeed, hardly any knew what crowdfunding was, and therewith stood our first problem.


Stripped down to the bare essentials, crowdfunding the novel involved asking friends, family, colleagues and contacts to pre-order our book. Most understood this and wanted to help, but once online were bamboozled by jargon. They were not ‘buying’ but ‘pledging’, the novel we had spoken about for so long – wasn’t a ‘book’ but a ‘project’ for which, instead of a purchase price, they were offered an escalating menu of ‘pledging options’ ranging from £10 for a paperback to £1,500 for ten hardbacks, launch tickets and rights to our first born children. Then, like a sponsorship form (but less altruistic) , there was the potential embarrassment of putting their name to the lowest level, ‘pledge’ a measly tenner beside a neighbour’s very public £200. Or the awkward option of anonymity, risking the assumption they hadn’t joined the fun at all. From our end, we rode the emotional rollercoaster of friends and colleagues from decades ago reaching out with kind words and pledges-a-plenty and some nearest and dearest avoiding it like an embarrassing plague. For me, this was the hardest part and I was grateful to have Gaynor by my side. Together we smiled through the promise of pledges from friends and family who did not understand that, ‘beneath the bonnet’ of the campaign, we were privy to every penny pledged…..or not pledged as the case may be.


There are two of us so double the contacts, but with £9,000 to raise address books were never going to be enough. We spread the word through our website and social media and, as Riverside Lane is set in Bray where we live, involved local press and businesses as well as leafletting residents. And all the while, like a digital thermometer, the funding gradually crept up.

Crowdfunding platforms vary, but Kickstarter pledges are only called in if the target is reached. We nearly fell short, but a last minute interview on BBC Berkshire generated the last few pledges we needed and Riverside Lane was on the map. There was a hardback, a party for pledgers, and a paperback a few months later.

It was a marathon, but worth the effort. I feel proud of our achievement, learnt a lot along the way and we have a beautiful book for our troubles. Now I’ve set myself another mountain to climb by changing genre. My second novel is a children’s magical realism story called The Witches’ Punchbowl. I have never regretted our crowd funding adventure but I can’t deny I am fervently hoping that when I find a home for The Witches’ Punchbowl it will NOT be dependent upon the wisdom of the crowds!’

***  Your determination to get your book published is incredible, Julia. Congratulations on achieving your dream! Barbara xx ***

Print Cover

A handsome American with a secret, Luca Tempesta, gets off a plane at Heathrow and heads for a quiet village by the Thames, taking time out, it would appear, for a holiday in the tranquil English backwater.

The local pub, a fine restaurant, church and boat house are where the locals gather, and here Luca discovers an odd assortment of characters: the seemingly wealthy and polished set, others trying hard to make their way into higher society, and curious villagers with surprising stories to be revealed.

As Luca tries to find anonymity, he soon realises that The Village is not such an easy place to hide.

A former spy, a gameshow host, a model, a journalist, the vicar and a biker all play a part in making up the village scene, with secrets lurking at every twist and turn of the river.

When Luca’s secret, along with those of other villagers, is finally revealed and he prepares to leave the village, he takes with him much more than he bargained for.

Set against the cinematic backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a thrilling, vivid page-turner that seeks to understand human behaviour hard-wired for desire, power, love and possession in a traditional society threatened by extraordinary challenges.

Beneath a taut, fast-moving plot, the upstanding residents of Riverside Lane watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur whilst their own bipolar lives start to unravel.

Books That Changed My Life: CAROLINE ENGLAND @CazEngland #booklove #amreading #writerslife

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, CAROLINE ENGLAND, author of dark domestic noir, shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Caroline


Born Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. In addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by ACHUKAbooks, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.

Her debut novel was Beneath the Skin. Her second novel, My Husband’s Lies, was published on 17 May 2018.


Caroline says: There are many books I have LOVED, but books that have changed my life is a more tricky question, you devil! The ones that immediately spring to mind are from my teenage years:

1. The Stud by Jackie Collins.

the-stud-3.jpgThis might seem a surprising choice but it did change my life! At school I had lent it to a friend, Jo, and the games mistress confiscated it when Jo and another pal were skiving a swimming lesson. Reading about sex was akin to possessing Class A drugs! A SWAT team (or the boarding school equivalent) descended and dormitory lockers throughout the whole school were searched for similar shameful reading matter. As you can imagine, I wasn’t a popular girl for some time (the moral of this tale is never to write your name in the front of a book!). To ingratiate myself with the English teacher, I made more of an effort in the classroom and I discovered ‘the more one puts in, the more one gets out’ was very true!

2. Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl.


See above! My copy was confiscated at the same time as The Stud. Oh no! Sex again! But these tales with their delicious spiteful twists were just perfect. There’s no doubt the dark twisty stories have influenced my writing, particularly my own short story collection.

3. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.


This is the book we were studying when I tried to become teacher’s pet. I’m looking at my copy now with my pencilled annotations. I still find it astonishing that a book published in 1874 had such a feminist heroine. Bathsheba is ambitious, independent, headstrong, determined, and free-spirited. From the very beginning, she makes it known that she could never become any man’s property. I know things go somewhat awry, but go Bathsheba!

4. The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes.


One of my favourite poets, not lessened by the fact that I saw him perform ‘live’ when I was at school. I can clearly remembering him explaining the background to The Thought-Fox and then reading it in that deep, yet soft Yorkshire timbre. I was mesmerised! I don’t think I would have written short stories, then novels, had I not begun my jottings by writing poetry.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


I moved schools for sixth form and we studied this for A Level. My teacher, John Billington, was just brilliant. Not only was he a great teacher, he was a buddhist with charismatic mystique. We all wanted to listen to his peals of wisdom and learn. I was so honoured that he read my debut Beneath the Skin and wrote: “I admired the sheer confidence of your style and the assurance of your dialogue — very impressive — as well as the dexterity of your complex plotting. And your insight into character is both astute and alarming! It is decades since I heard my mother say to my father “I can read you like a book!” when she discovered some minor hidden and innocuous secret (smuggling in a second-hand book usually), and I remember how as a child the possibility that women might have some X-ray capacity to read the minds of mere two-dimensional males haunted me. What on earth was Caroline thinking as she sat in my A level class! Dread to think.”

About Caroline’s book, MY HUSBAND’S LIES


Do you really know your friends?

On the afternoon of Nick and Lisa’s wedding, their close friend is found poised on a hotel window ledge, ready to jump.

As the shock hits their friendship group, they soon realise that none of them are being as honest with themselves – or with each other – as they think.

And there are secrets lurking that could destroy everything.



The perfect cover for THE PERFECT FRIEND #thriller #ThePerfectFriend

‘Everything so cleverly comes together to encapsulate the atmosphere of the content’

Last night was the cover reveal for my new book, THE PERFECT FRIEND. The reaction from readers and bloggers alike was brilliant, and I was embraced in positivity. That meant so much to me! Huge thanks to everyone who supported it, whether bloggers or readers – I can’t thank you enough.

I loved this cover as soon as I saw it. It’s not simply that it’s eye-catching – though who could miss its brilliant yellow glory – it’s the way that everything so cleverly comes together to encapsulate the atmosphere of the content.

The title is The Perfect Friend, but of course things are never going to be that simple in a psychological thriller. The colour captures the brilliant friendship at the heart of the book, but look closer at the shade of yellow chosen, and it’s slightly deeper than sunshine, hinting at the clouds that will soon be rolling in, and the storm ahead. The woman stands with her back to the reader, oblivious to the danger coming her way, and the fact she is viewed through the smashed hole in the picture gives an almost voyeuristic feel. Someone is watching her.

Then of course there is the sinister fracture running through the entire image, including the title itself, splintering reality for the characters involved. Finally, the clever touch of red in the tagline acts as a siren of danger.

It’s the perfect cover for The Perfect Friend, my fifth psychological thriller, in my opinion – buy what do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

She’ll do anything for you…

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.
My husband has left me.
My children won’t speak to me.
My friend Carrie is the only person I have.
She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.
She’d never do anything to let me down.
Would she?

THE PERFECT FRIEND is on July 5th, but you can pre order your copy today, here!

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Books That Changed My Life: PATRICIA LESLIE @PatriciaLeslieA #booklove #amreading #writerslife

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, urban fantasy author PATRICIA LESLIE shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Patricia



 Patricia Leslie, author of Keeper of the Way, A Single Light, and The Ouroboros Key, is an Australian speculative fiction writer blending history, magic, and fantasy in novels that explore hidden and untold stories, giving a voice, through fiction, to those in our past who have too often been rendered voiceless. Patricia hails from southern Sydney where she fills her fast emptying nest with books, writing projects, and a chicken named, Edna.


I don’t even know why I liked this story so much as a child. Perhaps it was the first book that I truly read on my own. Perhaps, it was the inevitable sadness of the cat’s journey, it’s connection to its owner. I still have this book though, tattered around the edges somewhat, but always close to hand and in memory. Elizabeth Coatsworth wrote The Cat Who Went to Heaven in 1930 and subsequently won the 1931 Newbery Award for children’s literature.
I started reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in late primary school and have been hooked ever since. Here is true fantasy with all the trimmings! Magic, dragons, Elves, and wizards. And of course, hobbits and the Dúnedain. The solitary ranger, brave and strong, wise to the natural world and the ways of magic yet gritty and down to earth… having Strider portrayed by Viggo Mortensen was just the icing on the cake!
Another series with all the magical trimming and with extra dashes of the mystical and history is the Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart. I absorbed these stories about Merlin and Arthur and they have shaped my life and my writing as did Marion Zimmer’s novels. It was these titles in particular that showed me the influence fiction, particularly historical fiction, can have on a person’s internal knowledge; that ingrained knowing that comes from experience.  I can read the facts, but it is influential reading like this that forms the foundation of my knowledge of English history. I see people from history as they were described in the historical fiction I’ve read. When I write now, I do my best to present real history as accurately as I can with thorough research. This is the power in writing fiction, it’s believability and influence over readers. Not everyone will fact check nor do they want to. It’s the writers responsibility to ensure they speak truth in every way they can.
Stephen King books have always gripped me from Carrie to The Stand and The Dead Zone, and The Dark Tower series. I could list all his books, but these are probably the main titles that have influenced my world view. In every story I write there is probably a little bit of Stephen King present, hiding around corners, in the folds of imagination, and layers of reality. I love the everyday character faced with the edge of horror and supernatural. The often solitary nature of King’s lead characters and the journey they undertake as they learn to rely on their own nature and to trust (or distrust as the case may be) the people they let into their inner circle of friendships.
But these are all books that I read as a child and teenager (when I should have been doing homework and studying, no doubt). More recently, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath (plus parts of East of Eden), have reached me in ways that are hard to explain. Steinbeck was a master of character description delivering understanding of each character in round about ways, often through the eyes of others, and then using a few words to show you hidden depths of character and meaning.
Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series is a cross between Tolkien and Stephen King mixed with the originality of Donaldson and contains a main character who is entirely flawed and entirely shaped by that flaw. How does a person cope when everything they know about their self, externally and internally, changes? How do they come to terms with things like belief when everything they thought was true in the world is skewed? When everything and everyone they loved becomes corrupted? Character development plus magic and tinges of horror, and an individuals normal world turned upside down.
I love reading so much! More than writing even, which (let’s be realistic here) is what I do so I can read more. There are many more books that have influenced my life and my writing in ways that can be surprising. Many I read repeatedly; so often that I sometimes pick them up just to catch up on how the characters are doing, refresh my memory on how they handle the life their writer has thrown at them, or just to re read a particular turn of phrase and way of experiencing the world. Story (whether it be fictional or non-fiction) shapes the way I approach every single day and the way I respond to what life throws at me from the mundane to the major crises, and in guiding my children through their worlds while I learn to live in mine. Reading sustains me, teaches me, reminds and welcomes me, and enriches my life in ways that little else (apart from writing, which I find releasing) does.

About Patricia’s book, KEEPER OF THE WAY


After news of grave robbing and murder in Dun Ringall, the ancient stronghold of Clan MacKinnon on the Isle of Skye, Rosalie realises it is time to share her family’s secrets. Descendants of the mystical Ethne M’Kynnon, Rosalie tells of a violent rift that occurred centuries earlier, splitting Ethne from her sisters forever and causing relentless anguish and enmity between ancient families.

Meanwhile, Algernon and Clement Benedict have arrived in Sydney searching for the lost relics of their family. They are driven by revenge and a thirst for power, and will take what they can to reinstate their family heritage. Their meddling with ancient magic will have far-reaching effects, as they fail to realise ther role in a far greater quest.

In the grounds of Sydney’s magnificent Garden Palace, danger grows as an ages-old feud of queens and goddesses heats up. The discovery of arcane symbols bring the distant past in a foreign land to Australia and will cause a profound struggle with tragic results, a surprising new recruit from an unknown world, and the complete destruction of the palace.

Set around stories and characters in 1882 Sydney, Keeper of the Way includes current affairs, people and buildings long gone, and gives a voice to people history doesn’t always listen to.


Four years, four books; how life has changed #writerslife #amwriting #livingthedream

Every time I look at that shelf I feel amazed at what I’ve done

This photograph popped up on my timeline over on Facebook today, reminding me of the pure exhilaration and joy I felt on this day exactly four years ago. This was the moment I nestled my own paperback, Invisible, on my bookshelf. I kept stepping back and gazing at it, as if afraid it might disappear into the dream it surely must be. I’d written a book. A whole book! How? Would I ever manage to write another one? To be honest, at that moment I wouldn’t have minded if I hadn’t, because to simply have done it once was the fulfilment of a lot of fantasising and even more hard work. So many people want to write a book; fewer ever get round to starting; even less finish. To have done that much was cause for celebration.

The dream had started around six and a half years earlier, when I got my Big Idea, but coalesced into something more solid and serious five years ago (oddly enough, almost to the day). Because five years ago I finally managed to successfully persuade my boss to let me take voluntary redundancy from my job as special projects editor (my role was to design new magazines, relaunch older ones that needed freshening up, and also edit a real life mag I’d just launched along with fabulous magazine designer Ali Christie). My 40th birthday was approaching, and with it the growing feeling that now was the time to do something crazy, jump from my well-paid job, and gamble everything on trying to become a successful author. It was stupid, irresponsible, rash… It was absolutely the right thing to do.

A year later, I self-published Invisible. It was eventually joined on my bookshelf by Flowers For The Dead. I signed with my publisher, Bookouture, in October 2016, and last year two more titles, The Darkest Lies, and Her Last Secret, snuggled beside my self-published books.

Four years, four books. I’m not the most prolific of authors, but every time I look at that shelf I feel amazed at what I’ve done. Today is a very special day – one that would have passed me by without Facebook reminding me. I wish I could tell my past self not to worry, because the silly decision to quit my job would be one I have never, even for a moment, regretted. Dreams have come true, and been replaced with new ones. Tomorrow, who can say what might turn up?


My journey to publication: ‘There is no such thing as failure’ Sharon Maas @sharon_maas @bookouture #authorchat #writerslife

There used to be one way only to become a successful author: first get an agent, then land a publishing deal. That was it. Now, there are numerous routes – which can make it both easier and harder to know what to do. In a short series, authors share their fascinating personal journey to publication with me. Today it’s bestseller Sharon Maas… 


Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, and spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured.

Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants. She ended up in a Colombian jail, and that’s a story for another day…

Sharon has lived in an Ashram in India and as a German Hausfrau–the latter giving her the time and the motivation to finally start writing seriously. Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published by HarperCollins, London, in 1999 and reprinted as a digital edition in 2014. After working as a social worker in a German hospital she finally retired and now has time for her favourite pastimes: reading, writing, and travelling.


Sharon says: ‘I was a late starter in this writing malarkey. I was 48 when I wrote my wrote my first novel; I wrote on a small Brother word-processor which looked like a jumped-up typewriter with a tiny screen at the top. It didn’t have a hard drive. I had to write it one chapter at a time and save each chapter separately on a floppy disk (remember those?). When it came to printing, I had to insert the disks one by one and print the book chapter by chapter. It was a breeze compared to the manual typewriter I’d used just a few years previously, and I was delighted to be able to see my typos on the tiny screen before saving to disk. It felt very modern.

The novel I finally produced was called Women of Mixed Blood. I had no internet at the time (hardly anyone did) but I still managed, in Germany, to get hold of a copy of Writers’ News, and there was an article about a new agent who had set up shop in London. I wrote her about the book; she wrote me back asking for the manuscript, which was all of 700 pages. I sent it.


Weeks of silence followed; but then: a phone call, asking me if I could come to London to meet her. Well, do horses eat grass? I flew over in a matter of days, along with my whole family. I turned up at her doorstep petrified, certain she had summoned me only to tell me my book was rubbish. But she didn’t. It’s terrific! were her first words, but then she sat me down and went through it with a red pen, striking through pages and pages. She sent me home with a mutilated manuscript and instructions to send it back once I had edited it.

I followed instructions to the letter; she began sending it out to London publishers. An agonising time followed. One by one, the publishers rejected the book. Each rejection caused heartbreak. When she called me with the final no, I burst into tears on the phone, and broke out in deep, gulping sobs. All that effort, for nothing It was all over. I was a rubbish writer.


But then – no. I put the phone down and re-read my Bible of writing, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. New strength poured into me. I sat down at my trusty Brother and started a new book, Of Marriageable Age. That book seemed to just write itself. At the time we lived in a draughty farmhouse in a German village. It had no central heating and, tropical bird that I am, I was freezing. But I had to write; an internal fire burned in me and the story was bursting out of me. I wore a warm coat and fingerless gloves and a cap and finished the book in record time and sent it off.

When I did not hear back from my agent (she must have been thoroughly fed up of me by now!) I sent it off to a critique service for an assessment. The editor who read it loved it, but had a few suggestions; I followed her advice, sent it back – and the next thing I knew a major London agent was on the phone; that editor happened to be a scout for the agency.


Back to London; this time, by the time I met my new agent she already had not one, but three publishers lined up. The book went to auction, and I flew off to Guyana with the family for my yearly visit to my mother. We stopped off with relatives in Trinidad, and I was still sleeping off my jet lag when my cousin woke me to say there was a call from London. Totally groggy, I took the phone from her and there was my agent. Two publishers had offered to buy the publishing rights. I had to make a choice, on the spot…

I chose HarperCollins. The following year, 1999-2000, I spent in a whirlwind of writerly dream situations. Meetings with editors and marketing and sales people from the publishers, telephone calls telling me of foreign sales; later on, a launch party with a couple of famous authors, media interviews for print and radio and TV. A contract for two more books. The dream was coming true.


The trouble with dreams coming true is that they can take over your head, and that’s never a good thing. Because that’s when you discover that dreams are not real. They are made of an ephemeral substance. They can disperse like soft mist.

With my fourth book, everything fizzled out. The manuscript was rejected and there I was, back to square one.

I had made the mistake of firing my agent – part of the illusion that the confidence given by a dream is real, that the wings I had grown were on permanent – and now I had to discover that I was well and truly on my own again.

The next ten years were spent in writers’ purgatory. I was in exile. I wrote one book after the other, submitted them to probably every single agent in the UK and USA. Twice I was taken on by agents from major US houses. Once I came within sniffing distance of a contract; but in the end the dream puffed up into vapour.

Looking back, those ten years seem to have gone by in a flash. It’s hard to believe that throughout it all I kept on writing. By now the internet and email had taken over and everything was much simpler, but had the rejections been in paper I could certainly have plastered all the walls in my house. But I kept on, writing and maturing, and by 2012 my aim was no longer to get published but to write the best books I could.


I wrote five novels, several memoirs, two screenplays, and a new version of the Mahabharata. I did a stint as a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund at Brighton University. I was accepted by the BBC into a select screenwriting group which now seems to be defunct as I can’t find it. I started an MA in Creative Writing at Sussex University (I dropped out halfway for a multitude of reasons, but it was good while it lasted). I participated eagerly on a couple of writers’ forums. And I kept submitting, and kept getting rejections.

The big change came when the digital age dawned. I decided that Of Marriageable Age, my most successful book, and maybe my best – needed a new lease on life. I never seriously considered self-publishing, apart from the Mahabharata (which I thought, would sell itself, and it does) – I have no enthusiasm or talent for the marketing and self-promotion that self-publishing demands. I am reticent rather than assertive.


But my American agency had just opened a division for “assisted self-publishing” of authors’ backlists. Of Marriageable Age was accepted into this programme. Around this time, HarperCollins offered me a digital contract for all three of my books. And I had just read a fabulous book by Renita D’Silva, published by Bookouture, a brand new digital publisher. Against the advice of a few knowledgeable friends – Bookouture had only published 3 or 4 books at the time and did not have the fantastic record we aspiring authors were told to look for — I submitted Of Marriageable Age to founder Oliver Rhodes – and he offered a contract.

So, it was three busses arriving all at the same time. The serious choice, of course, was between the venerable HarperCollins (I still yearned to pass through their gates at Fulham Palace Road once again) and little upstart Bookouture. I sent both contracts to the Society of Authors for legal assessment and advice. The SOA said that the Bookouture contract was far better and fairer.


So I chose Bookouture, and have never regretted it. Not only did this innovative little house breathe new life into Of Marriageable Age, republishing it in 2013 – they also allowed me to re-write –and improve — my two other HarperCollins books under new titles. Best of all, they also published most of the books I had written during the years of exile, including my beloved Quint Chronicles.

The moral of this story? Writers write. They don’t give up. There is never a guarantee you will get published, or, once published, that you will get rich and famous. In fact, getting rich and famous should not be part of the motivation at all. Write for the sake of writing, because it is a good and worthy thing to do what you HAVE to do.

During my years in “exile” I didn’t only write. I got on with life. I moved to England and back to Germany. I travelled to India, where I stayed in an Ashram, and to Guyana, to visit my mother. I got a day job and learned new facets of life, met new people. I read, I grew, I turned 60, passed 65. I took care of my seriously disabled husband. I learned the value of equanimity in the face of failure (even if I couldn’t perfectly practice it!).

In fact, I learned that there is no such thing as failure because with every new piece of writing I became a better writer, and a better person: better at living, and dealing with things that don’t go my way. I learned patience, and to get on with the things that really matter: my family, my friends, my life besides writing. Recently I retired. What better time to write?

***  A truly inspiring and uplifting post, Sharon – thank you for sharing it with us. You make a wonderful point about writing never being wasted, because the more we do, the more we improve. Enjoy a happy and prosperous retirement, full of books! Barbara xx ***


An unputdownable story about a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Georgetown.

All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret…

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets.


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