In the summer of 2003 I got made redundant. That Autumn I started a year-long Writing for Children class, taught by Elizabeth Hawkins, at the City Literary Institute in central London. Within weeks I knew I’d discovered my ideal job: writing fiction. I’d also realized that I wasn’t anywhere near good enough to get published yet. I worked very hard for the next year, starting seventeen books, most of which didn’t make it past chapter five or six. In the end I did finish an entire story, but it wasn’t until I started writing Girl, Missing (which was the second book I managed to complete and the first to be published) that I felt I’d found my voice.
Once Girl, Missing was finished, in March 2005, I sent it to a few agents. One of the agents agreed to represent me, and she sent the manuscript to some publishers. Simon and Schuster decided they liked the book, then met me and agreed to publish not only Girl, Missing (in October 2006) but my next three books too (the Luke & Eve series). My editor suggested some excellent changes to improve Girl, Missing which I happily incorporated and the book was more or less ready.
Meanwhile, the art director at Simon and Schuster was coming up with some cover concepts. The picture you put on a book’s cover, and the typeface you use for the title, are really important. Choose the wrong image and you could easily put people off buying the book!
At last the whole thing was ready to be proof read – that’s the process where you check all the little details – then it went off to the printers. With Girl, Missing the publishers produced a ‘book proof’ before the actual book was printed. That’s an unproof-read version of the book, sent as an advance copy to people who might be interested in telling others about the story – such as journalists and book reviewers.
One of the best moments of my life was the first time I held the book proof of Girl, Missing in my hand. After all the hard work, my dream of being a published author had come true.