Six years ago I had a very strange dream in which a group of teenagers trekked across a barren landscape on a quest. I woke in the middle of the night and wrote it all down, each kid somehow a real, fully formed person that just squeezed out of my head and onto the notepad. I didn’t know what the quest was; all I knew was that they were on a great journey. A bit like the one Runners began the very next day.
I’m sure in lots of guest posts over the coming months, I’ll be talking about the characters of the book, what influenced the plot and setting, what I think about who is the strongest/ most reliable/ my favourite. So this post is going to be about the journey that the book has taken from my head that night to publication, for that has been a quest in itself.
I’d never actually finished writing a book before, though I had attempted many over the previous years. I was just coming to the end of the first year of my English and creative writing degree. I started the book straight away and worked on it during the summer holidays in between reading texts for the new term that would follow in September. I had an old cranky desktop computer which promptly died at around chapter four, so I resorted to carting the book file around on a memory stick between different computers at the university library and at my brothers’ houses. I worked whenever and wherever I could. At that time my daughters were still young so their care had to be factored in somewhere too, which often led me to work late into the night after they had gone to bed. It seemed that, for the first time, a book was just not going to leave me alone until it was out. By the time the new term had begun I had a first draft, which I nervously printed out and took to show my friend, Louise (an extremely talented writer herself) who was in the same creative writing class as me. I expected her to make up some sort of excuse, or give me a vague ‘it was good’, but she brought the manuscript back a matter of days later and told me she loved it. Still, I thought, she’s being nice to me because she’s my friend.
But I got the bug, I wrote another book straight away (which became Sky Song) and I was just addicted to writing more and more stories for a while so Runners sat on my memory stick (you’ll be relieved to hear that I got a new computer from my student loan too!). Then I saw a competition run by Chicken House for new novels. I entered Runners. My friend was convinced that I was going to win. I didn’t, but it did go past the first stages and that, considering the sheer number of entrants and that, really, looking back, the draft was far from complete, was an encouraging sign. So I worked on it some more and sent it to another competition. This time it made the long list. I knew it wasn’t finished. I rewrote it again. I tried a few agents but got the inevitable rejections. I gave it a new title (it wasn’t called Runners at first) I tried a brand new publisher who was calling for full manuscripts and they wrote a fantastic email saying that they had read it and that it was a ‘well written and heart-warming tale’ but, unfortunately, it wasn’t for their list.
Then university got more demanding and I had other creative writing projects to do for my degree and Runners got forgotten. I’m ashamed to say that I lost faith in it – perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps it really wasn’t all that good. Every so often my friend would remind me of how much she loved it and she’d tell me I ought to be submitting it again but I worked on other things. Just before my university course ended in 2009 I began to help out at Immanion Press as an editor; soon I was taken on with pay and it began to take up lots of my time. Shortly after that, I graduated and I had to get a day job too and so writing took a back seat for a couple of years.
Fast forward to 2012. Two things happened at the same time and my life took a surprising but wonderful path. Firstly, I met another local writer, Mel Sherratt, who had been self-publishing, very successfully, on Amazon KDP and gave me so much advice and support about it that I had the idea to self-publish Runners. Then, just as I was preparing to do that, Immanion Press, who had never published Young Adult before, decided they were going to create a Young Adult list and offered me a contract for Runners. With the ego boost, I started to write again, lots and lots. The Sky Song trilogy became my first foray into self-publishing instead and I’ve loved every minute of the ride so far.
Some things are undoubtedly meant to be. I’m convinced (as I’m an incurable romantic at heart) that my silly little dream might just be the start of something wonderful. It certainly changed my life.