It gives me great pleasure today to welcome Mary-Jane Riley onto Linda’s Book Bag. Mary-Jane is another author from the wonderful Book Connectors Group on Facebook.
After She Fell
There are so many ways to fall…
Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.
When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.
Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…
The Bad Things
Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha’s two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.
Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.
But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us?
Five things I have learned since being published and one thing I have known for a long time
A Guest Post by Mary-Jane Riley
You’re always reaching for more. I danced naked around my bedroom when I put the phone down after my agent said she wanted to represent me. It’s not that I indulge in odd rituals (I do), but I had just got home from work and was getting changed when she rang. So there I was, not a stitch on, as she told me what she did and didn’t like about my manuscript. I nodded and murmured and agreed and then she said she’d like to represent me. She told me to rewrite the bits she thought hadn’t worked. Then she said goodbye. Then I danced. Then I realised I hadn’t written down a word of any of her suggestions. (I have never told my agent this story. I hope she never hears it.)
Anyway, the point of all this is that I had achieved my dream. I had an agent! Now I would be published! Feted! Acclaimed!
Er… hold on. Not as easy as that. No sir. I had to write another book – which turned out to be The Bad Things – before I got a publishing deal with Germany – it was a great deal and I was going to be published. What’s not to like?
But I wanted to be published in the UK. (Whiny voice).
Some time later, an editor at Killer Reads, a new digital imprint of Harper Collins, said she wanted to publish The Bad Things.
Cue celebrations (more of which later), and feeling that at last I had achieved my ambition.
But wait. People were going to read it. Real people. People I didn’t know.
Cue insecurities (more of which later).
Publishing day came and my feelings were mixed. Elation, doubt, worry, relief. But I’d done it!
And I had to do it again.
Luckily I had taken my agent’s advice (and numerous other writers writing about writing advice) and had been working on the next book, which became After She Fell, to be published by Killer Reads again.
So, After She Fell came out… it’s getting good reviews (though it can always do with more!) and readers I’ve spoken to say they are enjoying it even more than THE BAD THINGS.
So now I want to write an even better book. More clever, more twisty more….
See? Always reaching for more.
I am learning to live in a constant state of anxiety. Do people like my books? Are they enjoying them? Is anybody buying them? What if the next one is rubbish? What if it doesn’t get published? What if my agent decides I’m not worth the bother? (Actually, I know the answer to this one – she is the most fantastic agent and sticks with her authors through the lean and bad times as well as the good). What if I can’t think of a plot? What if I don’t get any reviews?
Which leads me on to point number three. Reviews. Rankings. Lists. When The Bad Things was published my husband was the worst person (bar none) for sitting up in bed, late at night, looking at Amazon (and Goodreads when he could find it). ‘Look,’ he’d say, thrusting his iPad under my nose, ‘you’re up to number 88 (or whatever).’ Five minutes later: ‘Look at this review – five stars. Five stars!’ An hour later: ‘Oh, look, you’re down to number 95.’ And this would go on until I fell asleep. He is nothing but loyal, my husband. Especially when I got a particularly nasty one star spoiler review. He wiped my tears and gave me wine. The name of that reviewer is now a swear word in our household. I can cope with people not liking my book, telling me in no uncertain terms they don’t like it, but what I don’t like (and my husband certainly doesn’t like) is a one line review that appears to contain a spoiler and so puts people off buying the book. Hurrumph. With the publication of After She Fell I have been a little more sanguine about reviews (I’m lying). I don’t worry about the fact I haven’t got 100 in the first month (I do). I know they will build (they will, won’t they?) – after all, I’m still getting them for The Bad Things. But the one thing I really am not doing and have forbidden my husband from doing is looking at the Amazon rankings. Therein lies madness. Believe me.
Now for something practical – register your book with PLR (Public Lending Right) and ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.). Registering for PLR means you get a few pence every time your book is borrowed from the library but you have to register by a certain time of year. I didn’t bother. My book was selling mainly as an e book and libraries wouldn’t spend their money on little old me’s paperback. Wrong. I had underestimated how loyal the library service can be to local authors and the libraries in East Anglia stocked my book. (Reader, I cried when I saw my book on the shelf in Eye library for the first time). But because I hadn’t registered with PLR I won’t get a penny from the first year. I’ve done it now. ALCS collects money from all over the world when your work is used. I’m not expecting anything much from that, but you never know.
I have learned that writing makes me happy. I love thinking about characters, I love trying to think of twisty plots. I go for long walks with my dog and we chat a lot about plots and character and sense of place. I enjoy the sheer physicality of typing. If I don’t write something for a couple of days I get a bit grumpy (I can get grumpy if the plot’s not working, too. Or if a character is a bit wet). I also feel very privileged to be able to do it for a (sort of) living and humbled that people want to read what I write. Thanks to all of you.
And finally to the one thing I have always known: celebrate every step of the way – however small – it’s a tough business. This was great advice from my agent. So, when I finish a draft, out comes the fizz. Ditto when I finally send my book to my agent. And again when she says she likes it. And again when my editor says she likes it. And again when it is published and…. Yes, I am probably in a semi-pickled state most of the time, but hey, we all go through enough bad times, let’s celebrate the good!
About Mary-Jane Riley
Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.