There’s nothing more motivating for fledgling writers than hearing from other writers who’ve been in the same position and have gone on to ‘make it’.
I immediately warmed to author, Phaedra Patrick, at a Read Regional event earlier this week hosted by The Heatons library. She started off by talking about ‘those people’ for whom everything falls into place. They write their first novel in a year, immediately get accepted by an agent and have publishers in bidding wars over the book. “It wasn’t like that for me!” she quipped.
Talking to a packed audience of bookworms, Phaedra took us on her journey, from her first writing jobs at a double glazing firm and a locksmiths, to her six ‘rejected’ novels, to the short story competition win that reassured her she is a writer. What inspired me was her relentless work ethic, the fact that she had a dream and she kept pursuing it day after day, year after year. Holding down a day job and writing whenever she had the chance.
However, when Phaedra set about writing The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, she told herself this was her ‘last’ book. Pouring her heart and soul into several year-long writing projects, none of which had gone anywhere, had taken its toll. Phaedra committed to writing one more novel, then she’d draw a line under the writing dream she’d spent so many years pursuing.
What was different about this book, she told us, was that she would write this for herself. She’d been advised that all publishers wanted were books about “sex, midwives and thrillers”. She’d steered clear of sex and midwives, tried her hand at a thriller that was “too chatty” and had her books revolving around female characters rejected. For the first time, she would stop trying to write something to get published, and focus on writing a story she loved, that she would love to read herself. Her lovable protagonist, 69-year-old widower, Arthur Pepper, was born.
The novel starts with Arthur taking the step to clear out his late wife’s belongings. He stumbles across a mysterious charm bracelet which he’s never seen before. It holds clues to Miriam’s life before they married, a ‘secret’ life she’d never spoken of. Arthur sets off on a journey to discover the story behind each charm, learning more about his wife and himself in the process. I borrowed the book from my local library a couple of weeks ago, having heard about it through the Read Regional scheme. I devoured it in a couple of days, taken in by its pacey plot, honest language, and Yorkshire roots.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, the book Phaedra wrote ‘from the heart’, is going down a storm with readers, it’s been translated into more than twenty languages and has even been optioned by American film company. What a fantastic achievement!
Phaedra has completed book two, Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, which is out in the UK towards the end of this year, and is cracking on with her third book. If that isn’t motivation to keep going, I don’t know what is.
If I take one thing away from Phaedra’s talk, it would be to replace the word ‘confident’ with ‘determined’. All writers have crises of confidence (at least that’s what I tell myself!). I was reassured to hear Phaedra does too. To get around that she tells herself that, while she might not be confident about her writing, she can most certainly be determined. I’m totally nicking this!
Phaedra has also very helpfully gathered some writing tips she’s collected over the years. Check them out here http://www.phaedra-patrick.com/writing-tips/