A friend of mine Sara Bailey is a writer living in Orkney and due to publish her first book in October. I’ve had a sneak preview of the first chapter and am already in love with her style and keen to read the whole thing. She’s too good not to share around so I’ve put together an interview to hear how it all happened.
Firstly Sara a huge congratulations on your first published book. It’s every writers dream and I’m not remotely jealous at all, so if you happen to find all four of your tyres slashed, just remember jealousy makes the world an ugly place so look elsewhere ok? Now that’s cleared up how are you feeling?
‘After 10 years and three rejected novels I was close to slashing my own tyres! So relieved, excited and terrified in equal measure. I think writers have to keep the faith and not just for themselves but for fellow writers too. I teach Creative Writing in various forms and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am when one of my students gets something accepted. It’s a privilege I never take for granted to have been part of someone else’s journey. I’m always keen to encourage others along the way.’
I can certainly vouch for your encouraging others along the way and thank you for being a cheerleader of mine as I venture out into the big wide writing world.
Tell us a bit of your writing history and how the book signing came about.
I’ve been writing for a while now. I did the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa thinking it would launch me into a career as a novelist but got sidetracked into poetry by the wonderful Philip Gross, so I ended up writing poetry and doing poetry slams for a while. Then I thought doing a PhD would get me back on the novel writing track. I’d written a couple of novels using Nanowrimo method of 30 days and 50,000 words and the first draft of this novel was written that way. I sent it off to a friend who is an agent and got enough encouragement to carry on writing and rewriting. The PhD gave me an insight to how I write and deadlines, which I need. Once that was finished, last year, I hadn’t really thought of sending the book out again – it had sort of served it’s purpose, getting me writing and giving me a qualification to validate my teaching. But, my husband kept asking me what the point was of writing a book if I didn’t get it published. And how hard could it be anyway? (hahaha) There are loads of terrible books out there! (You’ve got to love the Orcadian attitude!) So I sent it out to some agents. Some rejected nicely, some were very complementary but it was still a no, one was pretty horrible, but I kept trying. Then, one of my old students from Richmond told me that Blackbird were tweeting for open submissions. I knew a bit about Blackbird’s founder, Stephanie as we had some mutual friends, but I was wary of using that as a way in, however, they had a new editor, Rosalie, so I sent it to her. She liked the first chapter, asked for the rest, then decided it wasn’t really for her, which was fair enough. End of story, I thought. A few days later I got an email from Stephanie saying she’d read the book and liked it, and was opening up a new imprint with Jacqui Lofthouse, who I know and admire, would I like to be the début author for Nightingale? Jacqui contacted me and asked me to think about it, she thought I should still try to get an agent and that it was early days. But, the thought of being part of a new venture with these two incredible women was more than I could resist, so I said yes (and tried not to bite their hands off!). The day the contract arrived was the day J K Rowling came to the Library (you know the day you weren’t there?), but you know all about that.
ah yes the day I missed JK Rowling and you didn’t. (see here) It was obviously a corker of a day getting a book signing swiftly followed by meeting ‘Jo’ as you now refer to her. So just to rub it in one more time, and tell us what happened the day I missed out because I was working in the other library, (not that I’ve made much fuss about it)
Ah yes, that day. Well, I can’t really add much more than what is in the blog scribblingwoman.co.uk But Jo and I talked author chat for a while, like you do. No, to be honest I was completely star struck, stuttered and blushed a lot, and was a bit overwhelmed when she gave me a hug. If I’d read her message in my notebook when she wrote it, I’d probably have burst into tears. I was actually more concerned that she write To Sara, not Sarah at the time, the rest was all a bit of a blur. I think she is someone who remembers very clearly what it is like to be starting out. She posted her rejections online recently, which I thought was a lovely act of solidarity.
Yes I was really grateful to her posting her rejection letters on-line it gave me hope. There’s been much joking that J.K Rowling popped up to Orkney for her love of lemon cake, but what drew you back here?
Cake! Obviously, I actually came back to say goodbye. My dad (local doctor in Evie) died a couple of years ago and I was allowed to place a memorial bench for him at Evie bay. I came up to see it and say goodbye to him and the place I’d grown up in. Met some old friends I’d found on FB for a drink that evening and one of them was the boyfriend I’d been going with when I was about 15 just before I left. There was a bit of a spark still there, which developed after I went back south through texts and emails. He could tell I wasn’t happy with my life and eventually, in exasperation I think, told me I should just stop moaning and get myself back home. So, to cut a long story short I came back last March and we got married last August.
So your personal story is very romantic, like mine ( *ahem* read here!) but your novel less so. Tell us a little of where you got your inspiration from for your story line.
The story is about two teenage english girls living in Orkney and that moment when boyfriends come on the scene and best friendships start to splinter. I suppose to an extent I was inspired by my own teenage years – certainly in terms of a connection to my location. But also by watching my own daughters and their friends – it seemed to me there was a fearlessness, almost an arrogance that young girls have about themselves and each other and that it is a fine line between love and hate at that age – or rather that the line seems accentuated. It’s a delicate time for girls, they’re working out their sexuality, and their identity and what happens at that age can have repercussions – which is what happens in the book. It’s difficult because I’ve not given the book a happy ending as such, which was a risk. I think the story is also about looking at the darker side of the psyche, particularly women’s psyche, which is something I’m going into in even greater depth in the next book, which obviously interests me. I want to move away from the idea that it’s always men who do the terrible things – I think women are capable of horrific actions.
Sorry if that all sounds a bit grim – I wish I could write comedy, but it’s not my voice and it’s taken me a while to come to terms with that.
*cancels thoughts of slashing tyres and drops knife* Wouldn’t want to upset you, if that’s what’s inside your head!
Sounds like there’s a huge amount to keep up reading. Personally I love a non happy ending as I don’t always enjoy things being wrapped up all neatly. I think it’s more realistic that way, life is messy with loose ends, so I’m really looking forward to this one, especially as it’s putting Orkney on the map. Great stuff.
Finally, now that you’ve got there, what advice would you give to other writers who are wanting to make it into print? *cough* meforexample *cough*
Don’t stop and don’t give up. It’s all about persistence and discipline – which sounds really boring I know. But you never know if you’re talented or not and in a way that doesn’t matter – what matters is ‘do you want to write?’ or ‘do you want to be a writer?’ The two things are very different. If you want to be a writer and just dream about writing, then you’re not going to get very far. However, if you want to write, just keep writing. Every time you sit down to work on something you get better, you learn a bit more about the craft (and writing is a craft). Discipline is essential. Some of the best things I think I’ve written have come out of days when I’ve not really wanted to write anything, but have done a little bit at a time. I’m the queen of procrastination, but I’m learning to use it to my advantage so that the day doesn’t get wasted and do short bursts.
So, keep doing what you do. It’ll come. I’ve had plenty of days when I’ve not believed that, but it is true, if you build it they WILL come.
What cheer-leading there Sara. I won’t give up!
Thanks so much for sharing with us your exciting news. When the book comes out in October where can we get it from?
Thank you! It’s been lovely to chat with you. The book will available through Amazon and in all good bookshops! I hope you like it.
I’m sure I will. I continue to be not jealous, but I would still sleep with one eye open. 😉
And you can pre-order a Kindle edition here
The book cover
Sara the author