Welcome to Nicola Pryce who tells us about her journey to publication. All writers like to hear how fellow authors reached publication. Our stories are never the same.
If I’m honest, I’m still black and blue from pinching myself. I left school telling my friends I wanted
to write a novel but like so many of us, my career and my three children took up all my time. I had barely time to write a shopping list and any thought of writing was pushed well to the back of my mind.
I trained as a nurse and loved it, but with three children under three, I opted to stay at home and trained as a library assistant, working in school libraries to be free for the holidays. I had always loved literature and took the chance to study for an Open University degree in Humanities. Once the kids were older, I went back to nursing and trained as a chemotherapy nurse which I absolutely loved.
It was only when the children left university and my school friends began pestering me that I began to think about writing again. Conversations were already taking place in my head -people were talking across my mind. They had their own agenda, they were falling in love and for the first time ever, I began to look forward to my ironing pile so I could eavesdrop on their conversations. The voices were forming characters and for the sake of my sanity, I thought I should get what they were saying down on paper.
We had a week’s holiday and a storm was forecast. My husband managed to persuade me we could sail to Fowey in time to ride out the storm. I had my head in a bucket the whole way there and for a week we tossed and heaved on our mooring, my silence not going unnoticed. I stared out of the hatch and saw only eighteenth century Cornwall; the boatyards, the tall masts, and heard the wind whistling through the rigging of the ships. I decided, there and then, to take early retirement and have a go at writing my book.
It took over two and a half years. I wrote it for my family because I thought they ought to know what sort of romantic nonsense filled their mother’s head. It was over 185,000 words long and when I finished, I very tentatively gave it to my husband, my sister, and two school friends to read. I had told virtually no one I was writing the book and when they came back with such encouragement, I wondered what to do. I had seen an article about the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook so I read it from cover to cover and realised I must try and find an agent.
I highlighted ten names and began sending off my letter of introduction and the first three chapters. I followed their instructions, looking up specific names, and only choosing agents who were taking on new writers and who wanted the kind of book I had written. I knew agents wanted to be approached in turn but I honestly lost count of how long I had given them, and whether I should wait any longer for their rejection letters. Some never replied, some offered me a place on their writing course, others said they were sorry but it was just not commercial enough.
I had reached the stage where I knew I would have to send out more letters when I got a phone call and my life changed. I answered the phone to Teresa Chris and my legs turned to jelly. I honestly couldn’t speak but muttered back incoherently. I had to sit immediately, and write down everything she was saying with shaking hands. 185,000 words was too long. I had to cut it down to 120,000 and then re-submit it to her. I thought it would be hard to lose those words but it proved remarkably easy. When I returned the manuscript I had another phone call. She must have wondered if I was still on the other end of the phone because I was honestly speechless. She wanted to sign me up and was going to send me a contract.
I was very, very lucky and I’m still pinching myself. My message to anyone wanting to find an agent is never say never. Never in a million years did I expect that to happen. Never in a million years did I think to get a two book deal with Corvus – let alone be offered a third and fourth. Teresa Chris and Sara O’Keeffe from Atlantic books have taken my books and turned them into what they are today, and I cannot thank them enough.
One year after the publication of Pengelly’s Daughter, I have finally embraced social media. Do visit my new website if you would like to read more about my books. The Captain’s Girl is published this July and my next novel, The Cornish Dressmaker has been accepted and is through the edits. Eyes down now for number four.
Thank you so much Elaine for inviting me onto the RNA blog, and thank you to everyone in the RNA for your very warm welcome. Over the years, despite being so busy with my family and grandsons, I recognise how much writers give up for their work, and how important it is to have such a remarkable association behind us.
With best wishes to you all, Niki
The Captain’s Girl
As the French Revolution threatens the stability of England, so too is discontent brewing in the heart of Celia Cavendish. Promised to the brutal Viscount Vallenforth, she must find a way to break free from the bounds of a life stifled by convention and cruelty.
Inspired by her cousin Arbella, who just a few months earlier followed her heart and eloped with the man she loved, she vows to escape her impending marriage and take her destiny back into her own hands. She enlists her neighbours, Sir James and Lady Polcarrow, who have themselves made a dangerous enemy of Celia’s father, in the hope of making a new life for herself.
But can the Polcarrows’ mysterious friend Arnaud, captain of the cutter L’Aigrette, protect Celia from a man who will let nothing stand in the way of his greed? And will Arnaud himself prove to be friend… or foe?
Thank you, Niki, what an exciting journey!
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