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I have been keeping some news from you. It’s been tortuous, absolutely tortuous to stay quiet, and had I not been legally obliged to keep it zipped the whole world would know by now.
The news is this, and it’s a big one: I WROTE A BLOODY BOOK.
That’s right. A book. An actual book. One with pages and type and chapters and a publisher (Hodder & Stoughton, thank-you very much) and everything.
Let me explain.
My publisher’s foyer: because I have one of these now
I’ve always wanted to have a book published. My first attempt at literary superstardom was with the cerebral ‘Roger and the Ghost’, a tale about supernatural happenings in a family’s attic, and I self published (i.e. painstakingly wrote copies by hand with a felt tip pen: I got to three of them before boredom set in) at the age of 5. I await the Guardian’s offer to serialise this – I anticipate it any day now.
Roger and the Ghost was a sell-out, with my parents buying out every single one of those three copies. If I remember correctly I grossed 60p, a fortune back in 1990.
So when I was approached by an editor and asked to work on a parenting book soon after having Hux in 2013 I near enough bit her hand off with excitement. She introduced me to Rob, a Literary Agent, and I got cracking on a proposal to submit with them to a publishing house; when writing non-fiction you work on a basis of sample chapters and a synopsis, you see, rather than a full manuscript. Easy peasy, you’d think.
The moment I unceremoniously signed my Publishing Agreement at my desk back in February, witnessed by Elfie and Hux
But then I got divorced. I totally lost my mojo and instead spent my days keeping my head above water, both financially and emotionally. My editor and Rob kept in touch and I tried to work on the project, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see how anyone would ever want to read a book on parenting by someone who’d failed at marriage, and so I mentally put the book project to bed and moved on to building my business and keeping the kids happy.
Rob stayed in touch through the years, touching base every six months or so. “Are you ready to work on that proposal yet, Alice?” he’d gently enquire. “Any day now!” I’d respond, hoping it was true.
Where the magic (and a lot of wine drinking) happened
Until November 2017. There I was, happily minding my own on Instagram, when I received a DM from a publisher, Charlotte, at Hodder. “Have you ever thought about writing a book?” she asked.
“ONLY EVERY DAY FOR THE LAST 24 YEARS” I replied immediately, but with more chill.
Only kidding, I had no chill at all.
Six weeks later and after a realisation that, oh god, now I’d have to actually come up with some ideas for a book, I submitted my proposal for a humorous memoir about my experiences of Divorce and Single Parenting, which I’d hopefully titled ‘‘The Back-Up Plan’ – (pre-order here!!). And kept everything crossed.
I am presenting The Back-Up Plan to you so happily. It’s not just a story for those who’ve been through divorce or single parenting, but for anyone whose life hasn’t quite gone the way they’ve expected, whose happily ever after has not manifested.
It didn’t take long. One week later I had, in my email box if not in my hands, a book deal. A BOOK DEAL. An ‘All-My-Dreams-Are-Finally-Coming-True’ book deal.
I couldn’t believe it, though all of a sudden it became very real: my book deal came with the caveat that the manuscript would be due in on 23rd March. Which gave me six weeks to write my ‘All-My-Dreams-Are-Finally-Coming-True’ book.
An Author Guide. For me
I don’t know how I managed to write a book in such a short space of time but I did, and was only four days late to my six week deadline, which I was pretty darn thrilled about. I will write more about this experience soon because it was intense, damn was it intense, but by god I somehow managed to single-handedly parent two kids and maintain my day job (I was under such a tight timescale so didn’t receive my first advance until the manuscript was complete) while writing an 80,000 word book. Woohooh!
All I can say is those six weeks involved many 1am bedtimes and a lot of late night half-glasses of motivational wine.
Here it is
I turned in the book (or ‘THE BOOK’ in capitals as it became known, such was its importance in our house) on 27th March, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. I know this is an exhausted writers’ metaphor but I felt like I’d given birth, only this process of creating a baby involved notably less sex and a shorter gestation period. And, post-birth, my nipples remained intact. But otherwise, yeah: it was exactly the same as kicking out a word-heavy child. And boy, was I happy to have it out in the world.
But a little while after I edited and returned my final typeset copy of the book (the one where it starts to look like an actual tome), disaster struck: my relationship broke down. And though my story didn’t depend on the ‘happy ending’ of being engaged as such, it was still a large portion of the conclusion, which now felt disingenuous. A feeling that panicked me when I thought about publishing such a tell-all tome on the highs and lows of my life.
The day I finished editing my final manuscript: The Back-Up Plan was real
I was really keen to amend my manuscript to reflect the true story, and thankfully my publisher had a couple of weeks before sending the final words to print. I was given the May bank holiday weekend to re-write the engagement chapter, which I did, and emailed the amendments over to Charlotte with a sad heart.
But at the same time I was oddly proud; though heartbroken, I feel almost uplifted that a story I always expected to end in a ‘happily ever after’ of marriage has not. Instead it has become a tale of love, loss, friendship and discovery. And it is me – it is a person I am proud to be, a person who has WRITTEN A FREAKING BOOK. How cool is that?!
I am presenting The Back-Up Plan to you so happily. It’s not just a story for those who’ve been through divorce or single parenting, but for anyone whose life hasn’t quite gone the way they’ve expected, whose happily ever after has not manifested. It’s a book to give hope that, when things don’t go the way you expect them, there will always be a Back-Up Plan. And I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.