Five Kent-based authors tell us their story
PUBLISHED: 14:43 05 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:55 20 February 2013
Thousands of manuscripts are sent to literary agents and publishers each month, but how do they make it onto the bookshelves? five Kent-based authors tell us their story...
Thousands of manuscripts are sent to literary agents and publishers each month, but how do they make it onto the bookshelves?
Five Kent-based authors tell us their story
Author: Lesley Cookman
Writing and acting are two things that seem to be in Lesley Cookmans blood. As a successful mystery writer she hasa real passion for pantomime and her considerable expertise, both behind and in front of the curtain, led to her writing the hugely successful How to Write A Pantomime, now in its third edition.
Its no surprise, therefore, that her love of acting is also reflected in her much-loved, Kent-based Libby Sarjeant mystery series. Like her heroine, Lesleys writing career is unconventional and began when her late husband gave her an early computer with the instructions to put it together and write a how to article on it.
The resulting feature led to a commission for Which Computer? and over the next 20 years Lesleys stories, articles and features filled numerous magazines. Her aspiration to write a novel had not, however, lain dormant.
As a member of the Romantic Novelists Associations New Writers Scheme, Lesley had several close encounters with the romance market before turning her hand to crime fiction.
The character of Libby Sarjeant was originally created for the World One Day Novel Cup but her initial chapters were abandoned when industry experts advised that the cosy crime market was dead.
Lesley wasnt convinced, however, and many years later Libby was resurrected for her MA dissertation in Creative Writing. A friendship made on the course with Hazel Cushion of Accent Press led to the production of the first Sexy Shorts collection and one year on, when Hazel was looking to add a crime series to Accents list, she cameknocking on Lesleys door.
The rest, as they say, is historyand the eighth Libby Sarjeant novel, Murder to Music, is available now.
Author: Alex Brown
Genre: Contemporary womens fiction
Location: Near Tonbridge
The road to publication is never easy and according to Alex Brown it helps if you have a strong resilient streak.
For as long as she can remember Alex has dreamt of being a novelist. Her childhood was spent living vicariously through various characters and writing her own stories for school.
Some years later she found herself with more than 15 years experience in the corporate world and a growing doubt that she would ever be able to live her dream.Then a friend spotted a competition tofind a new columnist for News InternationalsThe London Paper, which prompted her to create a fictional diary entry.
Alex can still remember exactly where she was when the editor called, tellingher she loved it and asking for the next two instalments. For the following two years her weekly City Girl columns filled the paper, fuelling her desire to write and re-awakening the dream until, spurred on by positive readers comments, Alex reached her now or never moment.
Scared she would be stuck in an office forever, Alex came up with a plan that would enable her to write full time and eventually enrolled on a commercial womens fiction course run by Cornerstones Literacy Consultancy.
Alex says it was like turning on a light bulb as she was given the tools to hone her craft and the confidence to do it.Since then Alex has been working hard to make her dream come true and has written two novels that have attracted the interest of a top publisher. Shes now looking for an agent while keeping her fingers firmly crossed.
Author: Jane Ayres/Seaman
Genre: Writer and tutor
Jane Ayres is a prolific author whose childrens novels are a pony-mad girls dream. Although mainly published abroad, shes been writing for as long as she can remember and says the introduction of horses was a direct link to her desire to own a pony.
Its a winning formula and, with more than 30 novels, 200 articles and short stories to her name, shes been consistently published since the age of 14.
After graduating with a music degree, Jane took a secretarial position for the UK sales and marketing manager at Random House and laughingly relates her time there, explaining how she was a terrible secretary but it was an amazing opportunity to learn about the business.
An article in trade magazine The Bookseller led her to a London agent and, harnessing her strong entrepreneurial streak, Jane asked an art student to illustrate her book before sending it off.
The agent liked it but decided it wasnt for her, referring Jane onto a colleague who specialised in childrens books and foreign rights instead. That was more than 20 years ago and Jane has been with the Luithlen Agency ever since.
But it hasnt always been a smooth ride and Jane recalls how her nervous first meeting with a major publisher didnt quite go to plan, as they rejected her idea for a novel and instead requested a series of 20 linked short stories which would later become Horses in the Gallery.
Unfortunately, the editor didnt want her next book, Wild Horse Island, but Stabenfeldt, a publisher in Norway,did and they have been publishing her work ever since.
Last Chance Horse is her latest release and, although her stories are translated into seven languages and widely available in the USA, Jane looks forward to the day when she can easily pick up one of her stories here.
In the meantime she spends her time delivering writing workshops aroundKent for the University Centre Folkestone, organising events there as part of the Folkestone Book Festival and offering a coaching and mentoring service. She will also be teaching on the new Creative Writing BA which is starting at the University in September.
Author: Jane Wenham-Jones
Genre: Contemporary womens fiction and how to non-fiction
Reading a book by Jane Wenham-Jones is an interactive experience. Her novels display her wry sense of humour, while the pages of her How To books oozea real sense of fun and, as the story unfolds, you cant fail to grin orgroan along with her.
Her first non-fiction book, Wannabe a Writer? is aimed at all aspiring writers and details her first novels rather unconventional route to publication.
As an experienced journalist,Jane has more than 100 short stories to her name and holds regular columns in Writing Magazine, Womens Weekly Fiction Special, and her local Isle of Thanet Gazette.
But when it came to her first novel she broke all the rules. From pitching before it was even written, to badgering agents to see if they liked it, she did it her way until Raising the Roof was sold in 2000. Having succeeded, however, Jane was disappointed to hear other authors dismiss their own publication journey and felt it was important to tell it how it really is. And just how hard it can be.
Her follow up, Wannabe A Writer Weve Heard of? is aimed at those with a recently acquired agent or publishing contract tucked under their belt and tells you how to get yourself and your book noticed.
Once again, her personal experiences make it easier to trust her advice and you can talk to Jane online through pre-booked one-to-one sessions
Author: David Lee Stone/Grimstone
Genre: Children and young adults
One word seems to be inexplicably linked to David Lee Stone and that is fantasy. Whether referring to his remarkable transition from Blockbuster employee to Richard and Judy interviewee, the record-breaking acquisition of his debut novel or his long-term relationship with Terry Pratchett, they all seem to have a sprinkling of magic fairy dust.Butthe real story is one of hard work and single-minded determination.
From an early age, David knew he wanted to write but his ambition was fuelled by the discovery of Eric, a fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett.
Striking up a correspondence with the author, David devoted himself to his dream of publication, playing truant and sacrificing friendships in order to create the fantasy worlds he was so drawn to.
His work started to be placed in competitions and magazines, gaininghim a reputation, until finally veteran anthologist Peter Haining decided he should feature in the Knights of Madness anthology alongside his long-term idol. David describes seeing his first copyas the proudest day of his life, but his first novel continued to be rejected. Eventually, hitting rock bottom, David threw his manuscript in thebin, told his mother he had quitwriting and went out.
What happened next continues the fairy tale as his mother retrieved the manuscript and sent it to the offices of Ed Victor, a renowned literary agent, on his behalf. You can imagine his shock, therefore, when the agency rang some weeks later to offer him a contract.
A decade on and David is still living his dream. His Illmoor and Gladiator Boy series have now given way to the exploits of Undead Ed. The first book Undead Ed and the Howling Moon has been chosen as part of this years library Summer Reading Challenge. Youcan also find David at this monthsBath Festival of Childrens Literature.
The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue ofKent Life.
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here