Lockdown has been a trying time for everyone, but when your long awaited debut novel is about to be launched and all the usual celebratory events are cancelled it must be devastating. Having received a copy of Gillian Harvey’s Everything is Fine from Alex Layt at Orion, I thought it looked super and simply had to invite Gillian onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit about her journey to publication – albeit, not necessarily the publication experience she was expecting!
I’m thrilled to have Everything is Fine on my TBR. I’ve been hearing excellent things about it from other bloggers and I can’t wait to read it.
Published by Orion on 28th May 2020, Everything is Fine is available for purchase through these links.
Everything is Fine
Jessica Bradley has it all: the perfect boyfriend; influential healthy-eating blog; successful PR company and wonderful daughter, Anna. Or at least that is what her thousands of followers believe.
The truth is, her boyfriend just broke up with her in four words on a post-it; her zest for healthy-eating has all but disappeared; her PR success is all reliant on her now not-so-honest online-life and she just got caught eating her daughter’s Coco-Pops.
So as they say: fake it ’til you make it. A few little white lies and phoney smiling selfies and Jess can keep up appearances. But when her real-life starts to spiral out of control how can Jess tell the truth from the lies? And will she be able to seize real happiness when it is right in front of her?
A Guest Post by Gillian Harvey
Does anyone remember The Garden Gang? If you’re my age (42) or thereabouts you might. They were a series of children’s books about living fruit – Percival Pea and Roger Radish to name but two – that I remember reading when I was about 9.
As well as enjoying the little tales of random vegetables, the books provoked another emotion in me – insane jealousy. They had, I found, been written by a 9-year-old girl called Jayne Fisher. Which meant that someone of about my age had already achieved my dream of becoming published author. How I hated her for it!
I’m not sure when my ambition to become an author started. I remember always loving books, and – as soon as I could – enjoying writing poems and short tales. I must have been quite good at writing even then, as when I was seven I copied an Enid Blyton poem and passed it off as my own. The teacher was amazed, and the headteacher read it out in assembly. I spent the rest of the term wracked with guilt and sure I would be expelled.
I had other, genuine, successes: the day in year 3 when my poem was made into a giant poster for a parents’ evening display, as well as the moment in year 4 when my story was read out to the whole year-group. I still remember both moments vividly.
But as you grow, realise how big the world is and how tiny and insignificant you are, these sorts of ambitions are put on the backburner and labelled ‘dreams.’ You are encouraged, by well meaning adults, to have something to fall back on.
I began to feel shy of my ambition – whenever I told people I was writing a book, I’d feel I had to add the rider “it’s probably not very good” or “I realise it probably won’t be published.” I still scribbled novels – or novel attempts – whenever I could, and finished my first 80,000-word draft in 2002 when I was 24. But I kept my dreams close to my chest.
I bought my first copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ yearbook – an enormous volume containing addresses of publishers and agents – the same year – not knowing it would be 16 years (and many copies) later by the time I actually got signed.
The years in between weren’t wasted – I wrote six further manuscripts, taught English at secondary schools, moved to France and had five children. In my spare time, I learned to craft my writing more, and began to publish pieces in magazines – my first in 2012.
As I matured as a human and a writer, I started thinking less about my artistic bent and more about my audience and what they might want to read. I tried different genres – from psychological thriller to rom-com; and finally found that while I could readily dip into my dark side, I actually had a bit of a talent for humour.
One day in 2017 I began to think about social media, and the fact that – to a greater or lesser extent – we’re all posting edited versions of our lives online. The idea for my breakthrough novel was born. After several drafts and redrafts, Everything is Fine was finished in 2018 – and accepted by my agent on its first submission. And in January 2019 after being turned down by a couple of publishers, I signed with Orion.
The time between signing and actually getting a book into the world was almost unbearable – I edited, and waited impatiently for proofs. But by the time they were printed, the world had changed. Coronavirus had hit, my launch was cancelled, and it looked pretty unlikely my little novel would hit the shelves in any real sense as all the bookshops were shut.
Lockdown shook our world and for a time nobody could think about anything but keeping safe, and washing groceries with antibacterial spray. But after a few weeks, I realised I’d have to put myself out there or risk my lifelong dream slipping away from me.
Ironically, it’s social media – the very thing I joke about in my novel – that enabled me to still reach readers through posts I put out on Twitter, or articles I wrote on news sites and in magazines.
And in May, I finally linked a champagne glass against my webcam and launched my book online.
It’s not the ideal time for anyone – and certainly not the best time to release a book. But still, I’ve done it.
It’s been a long journey, but I got there in the end!
And from what I’ve been hearing about Everything is Fine Gillian, you’ve got a real winner on your hands. Huge congratulations. I can’t wait to read it. I hope it’s a huge success for you.
About Gillian Harvey
Former Head of Department and English teacher, Gillian Harvey, 40, began her freelance writing career in 2012, after a move to France. She has since written articles on a variety of subjects for national newspapers including Guardian, Telegraph, Sun and Times Educational Supplement, as well as magazines such as Prima, Living France, Woman’s Weekly and My Weekly. She contributes regular short stories to Take a Break Fiction Feast and My Weekly. Gillian also writes regularly for popular online health platform Patient UK, and has produced several pieces for Natwest and RBS’s customer site ‘Content Live.’ She was also columnist for Prima Baby magazine (2014-2015), Telegraph Expat (2015) and Living France magazine (2016-2018). Gillian lives in France with her husband Ray and their five young children.