Mel has taken the world by storm this year with her debut novel, The Christmas Carrolls! Full of Christmas joy, laughs and love, this is one to read each year so your Christmas cup spilleth over!
How long have you been hoping to become a published author?
I first tried to become a published author 15 years ago! I was studying Creative Writing at university and my lecturers encouraged me to submit a story I was working on to agents. And it actually worked! I secured a literary agent, but after we spent almost a year editing the manuscript, she decided to change careers and I found myself back at square one. I was devasted at the time, but having now learnt so much from teaching creative writing to children and working with publishers, I think I’m in a much better position to navigate a career as an author 15 years later!
What have been the greatest challenges in getting published?
For me, it’s been a matter of time. I often heard people say ‘you must make time to write’, but running two businesses (and working every evening and weekend) made that somewhat tricky. I felt like I was putting all of my ideas, creativity and energy into my businesses, and it wasn’t until I closed my creative writing workshop business (Little Star Writing) in December 2019 that I then had time to turn my attention to writing again. In fact, just two days after announcing that I was closing the business, I met my agent, Felicity Trew, and it very much felt like the universe was telling me ‘NOW is your time to write!’.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about publishing?
I’ve been very lucky to work with children’s publishers for the last 15 years, so I’ve seen how things work from the other side and I think that’s given me a very realistic view of how a book gets published and what’s involved. Nothing has really surprised me, to be honest, except for how quickly The Christmas Carrolls was published! I signed the contract in December 2021 and it’s on shelves 10 months later, which I know is super rare as most books can take two or three years to hit the shelves.
Do you have other stories waiting to be written or published?
Yes! I’ve got lots of plans for picture books, some younger fiction, and I’d very much like to go back to the trilogy I wrote at university (the one that secured my first agent) as those characters still haven’t left me fifteen years later!
What do you think makes a good story?
For me, a good story is one that pulls you in from the very first page and doesn’t let go. It’s also stories where characters feel as real as your own friends and family, and stories that surprise you / take you to unexpected places.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure if it’s a quirk, but I prefer to handwrite my first drafts, which I think is rare nowadays? I find my ideas flow a bit easier when I put pen to paper and then I add new ideas as I type it up.
Can you describe your writing space?
It varies! Sometimes I write in my office, surrounded by colour-coded bookshelves. Other times, I write in my living room (especially at Christmas time when the tree and decorations are up) or in the park in summer. I actually feel more inspired when I change where I write. The writing feels fresher, less pressurised, more fun somehow!
How long do you spend writing on a daily basis?
Nowhere near as much as I’d like! Mondays are my allocated ‘writing days’ where I have childcare in place and I don’t have to work on Authorfy (an online educational platform I run). I also try to write in the evenings, at weekends and whenever my 8-month old is sleeping, but I find it quite tricky to dip in and out of my writing. Normally once I’m ‘in the zone’, I write for hours and forget to eat / drink / do anything else, so I hope I have more time to write like that soon!
What tips would you give to other aspiring authors?
Ask lots of questions, connect with other writers on social media and enjoy the process!
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