Kate Long is the author of seven novels. Her first, The Bad Mother’s Handbook, was a number one bestseller, was serialised on Radio 4, nominated for a British Book Award and turned into an ITV drama/DVD starring Catherine Tate.
She has since written six more novels: Swallowing Grandma, Queen Mum, The Daughter Game, Mothers and Daughters, Before She Was Mine and – the sequel to The Bad Mother’s Handbook – Bad Mothers United.
Kate’s stories tend to focus on family drama and relationships between the generations, and her earlier work was heavily influenced by her Lancashire upbringing.
And now from the author herself:
A few weeks ago I found myself on a panel at a West Midlands Writing event. It was a networking day aimed mainly at new and emerging writers, and I and the other panellists been asked to speak about our own experiences of breaking into the world of publishing.
As I put my notes together I was reminded how the whole process of getting a novel accepted, either by a small press or one of the bigger ones, can be a notoriously chancy affair. In my own case, it was a series of almost bizarre, dog-leg coincidences which resulted in my first novel ending up on the shelves (and on Radio 4 and ITV).
In 1995 my friend’s sister was working for a man called David Rees who ran an antiquarian bookshop in London. David, I heard, was putting together a one-off literary magazine of short stories; did I want to send him anything? I hadn’t much writing under my belt at that stage, but I did have one piece ready to go so I posted it off.
The story was accepted, and a few months after the magazine – ‘Madam X’ – came out, David contacted me to say my story had been spotted by an editor at one of the mainstream publishing houses. Had I written a novel, this editor wanted to know. Because if I had, she wanted to see it. As it turned out I hadn’t, so David said I ought to give it a crack. That prompt alone was enough to make me knuckle down and within two years I’d completed a full length manuscript which he then proceeded to try and place for me.
It had, as they say, some very nice rejections. But those of us who are in the writing game know there is a significant difference between a standard rejection letter and one where the editor has taken the time to add encouraging comments and pointers. In my case, the most positive rejection came from someone at Picador, a Peter Straus. He told me to ‘keep going’, and that he’d ‘like to see my next manuscript’.
After that I admit I flagged a little. I had a busy job as a teacher, and there was a new baby in the house. Life seemed full and hectic. I still, however, found time to jot down the odd short story, and competition placings every now and again kept my confidence up. It was an Arvon course that really cranked up the momentum, though. In 2000 I spent six days being intensively tutored in creative writing, and I came away so enthused I felt as if my new novel was ready to write itself. I applied for an Arts Council grant to cover nursery care over the summer holidays, and when the money arrived I simply handed over my kids and wrote like the devil, blasting through the first draft of ‘The Bad Mother’s Handbook’ in a matter of weeks. The manuscript took a further year to revise, and then once again I mailed it off to David Rees’s bookshop.
For a while all was quiet. Then one day a woman walked into the shop; David engaged her in conversation and discovered she worked for Hodder & Stoughton. ‘That’s interesting, because…’ he said, lifting my manuscript out from under the counter and pushing it towards her.
Amazingly she took it home to read and within a fortnight she’d made me an offer. But David, keen to get me the best deal he could, contacted for advice his friend, Peter Straus, who was now with the literary agency Rogers, Coleridge & White. Peter took over the negotiations and got me a really good deal, with four publishers bidding for the rights. So for ‘The Bad Mother’s Handbook’ I actually had two agents! And an excellent start to my writing career.
Since then I’ve had six more novels published, all commercial women’s fiction. I like to depict family dramas, and I’m especially interested in the relationships between generations. Other recurring themes are adoption, infidelity, sexuality, disability and mental health issues. Writing’s my full time job now and I know how fortunate I am to be in this position.
But although I’ve been undeniably jammy, there are factors that allowed the lucky moments to join themselves up: producing work fairly steadily, responding fast to possible opportunities, and making and maintaining contacts. This is what I said to the audience at the West Midlands Networking Day, and it was a message echoed by my fellow panellists. You don’t quite ‘make your own luck’ in this business, but you can certainly give it a good helpful shove along the way.
You can find more about Kate and her writing via…
- Her website: www.katelongbooks.com
- Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Long/e/B001HOE3RE
- Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Kate-Long/e/B001HOE3RE
- Publisher: http://authors.simonandschuster.co.uk/Kate-Long/67698485/print
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