I can't recall exactly how old I was when I started to write my first 'novel', but it was round and about the age of ten. Already an avid reader, I was influenced by my older sister - then in her mid teens - who was attempting to write a Georgette Heyer style romance. At the time, it seemed to me a brilliant idea to write the book I wanted to read. It’s what I still do.
I never finished anything, I always ran out of steam (and plot). That first attempt was only a 2 or 3 pages long. I gave up writing altogether when I went to art school and I worked as an illustrator in advertising, with no thought of becoming a writer. I only began again, this time with the serious aim of being published, when I was married and at home with my young son. Just Before Dawn, the first novel I ever finished, was an unconventional love story. It was published in 1986. In my second book, Desires and Dreams, I completely subverted the ‘romance’ stereo-types. It was published in 1987.
It was the end of an era when publishing was a gentlemanly profession, with premises in the old parts of London - dark, dusty offices, up many flights of stairs, and those clanky old lifts with concertina metal doors. I was published during the years of the blockbuster novel. Authors like Judith Krantz, Daniele Steel, Barbara Taylor Bradford were writing brick-sized novels which sold in shed-loads. Suddenly publishing was ‘hot’. It became big business. The publishing men and women of the past, who’d been in the profession for love, were either eased out or sidelined. The real power moved to the money-men. What became important was not the writer, but the product - and, by extension, the bottom line. My own, small, independent publisher, Love Stories, ceased trading after a few years of battering its head against brick walls. It could not achieve the marketing, promotion or distribution necessary to win success for itself, or for its authors. Other than the book shop in my own home town, where I’d badgered the owner, I never saw either of my books in a book store.
So started the next phase of my life. I’d gone from thinking, rather complacently, that I was ‘a writer’, to feeling like a wannabe again. And, as the years passed and the rejections from literary agents piled up - because ‘they didn’t know how to market me’ - I yo yo ‘d from elation to despair. The world of publishing didn’t stay static either. If anything, as the economics of publishing shifted and profits were harder to come by, publishers became even more focused on the bottom line, even more determined to find the next Joanna Trollope or the next Katie Fforde or the next Sophie Kinsella. I felt that I was ploughing a lonely furrow. I didn’t want to be the next anyone. I wanted to be the first Gilli Allan.
So, at the beginning of 2011, having received yet another rejection for TORN, a book I really believed in, I decided I had reached the end of the road. I either needed to shelve the book once and for all, and in the process break my heart, or self-publish. God bless Amazon - Kindle.
And the really good news is that since going it alone I have signed a contract with the new e-publisher, Lysandra Press. My book, Life Class, is coming out in the new year.
Fascinating post. I'm so glad you have won out after all your vicissitudes. This piece is really inspiring for would be authors.
Are you going to release your original novels again?
There is talk of bringing at least one of them out as an ebook. Trouble is it was written pre-computer and I have to convert it, and then update it.
Congratulations, Gilli, and thanks for the inspiring post.
Well done for perservering, Gilli. Congrats on your contract!
How did you get Katie Fforde to endorse you!!!!! Just ask?
Fascinating blog piece, Gilli, and congratulations on your contract with Lysandra Press.
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