It has been said that the difference between a professional writer and an amateur is that the professional never gives up. This inspirational guest piece by the talented – and persistent – Jennifer Moore is proof of how true this is.
I’ve been following Ninevoices since winning the British Czech & Slovak Writing Competition back in 2016, so it’s lovely to be invited to contribute a guest post. Thank you, Maggie!
I often describe myself as ‘a writer of two halves’, writing psychological thrillers as Jennifer Moore and funny children’s books as Jenny Moore. In truth, it’s not quite such a neat divide as that on a day-to-day basis, with ongoing projects in both camps, and it’s even harder to separate the two when it comes to explaining how my thrillers began life…
2017 started well for me, with not just one but two offers from agents for one of my children’s books. After much careful deliberation, I chose to sign with the agent who also represented adult books and promptly set about writing one – a creepy story about a grieving, pregnant woman who moves into a new house on Crenellation Lane with her husband, hoping that a fresh start will help her get over her twin sister’s death. She’s plunged, instead, into a nightmarish double mystery, with someone targeting the house from the outside and increasingly spooky goings-on within it. The novel was named after the street she lives on, Crenellation Lane, a name that popped into my head seemingly at random and refused to leave.
My agent was encouraging, offering helpful suggestions after reading the first few chapters and synopsis, and I threw myself into the project. It proved to be the perfect distraction from the waiting game while my children’s book was out on submission… a children’s book which didn’t, in the end, find a home, despite some great feedback from publishers.
By the autumn of that year, Crenellation Lane was approaching completion. Winning a Mslexia writing competition, with a first prize of a complete manuscript assessment from Daniel Goldsmith, proved to be the perfect impetus for getting it over the finish line. The prize was only valid for a month, so I pushed onto the end of the book and gave it a quick polish before sending it off. The feedback was really encouraging – the editor described it as a ‘well-structured and gripping mystery underpinned by strong themes of love, loss, life and death’. He wrote, ‘an emotional and action-packed roller-coaster, the novel is highly entertaining, humorous and fast paced,’ pointing out a few final points where the tension could be heightened even more. I thought I was onto a winner…
Fast-forward to early 2018, however, and my agent and I were no longer together. I was gutted. A tough six months or so followed, when nothing seemed to go right on the writing front, before I found my wonderful children’s publisher, Maverick Arts Publishing.
Crenellation Lane was left on the back burner while I concentrated on my middle grade books. But every now and then I’d spot a call for submissions from a publisher in Writing Magazine and dust it off again, not wanting to give up on it entirely. One editor said it was the best submission she’d read that year, but it was, for various reasons, still a no. Months later, however, she got back in touch to say she’d often thought about Crenellation Lane since, and could she read it again? This led to a phone call and some fresh work on the novel before it eventually made it to the acquisitions stage… where it was turned down.
In the summer of 2021, after more near-misses and a change of title to The Viewing, I came across HQ Digital, a branch of Harper Collins who accepted non-agented submissions. Off it went again. A few months later I received an email to say the book was currently with an editor who was enjoying it, and could I confirm that it was still available? I duly confirmed, trying not to get my hopes up too much. It was difficult not to though, especially when I received an email from the editor herself, saying that she was taking it to the next acquisitions meeting and could I send ideas for a second book…
Unfortunately, the second book idea didn’t go down as well, but the editor offered to chat through the market and other potential ideas with me on a Zoom call. During the intervening days I came up with the outline of another book entirely, The Retreat, about a writer on a writing retreat who finds herself the target of creepy incidents taken from her own book. The new idea proved much more popular and that was the one that went to acquisitions, along with Crenellation Lane/The Viewing.
After what felt like a very long couple of weeks, the editor (henceforth known as my editor, Becky!) was back in touch to say that everyone loved both books and they’d be thrilled for me to join the HQ Digital family. We had a Zoom meeting to talk through the next stages of the process and then, once the contract was signed, we were off! It’s been an absolute joy working with Becky (and Abi, my current editor while Becky’s on maternity leave) and the HQ team. I’m so pleased my books found their way to them. I even got to go to the big Harper Collins party last summer at the V&A and meet everyone in person.
Book One, now retitled as The Woman Before, came out in eBook and audio in July 2022, and I celebrated at home, with Covid! The paperback version came out in September with a Covid-free launch at my local bookshop. It was spotted in Bella magazine too, which was exciting! Book Two, now called The Wilderness Retreat, is out in eBook and audio on 22nd February and in paperback on 27th April. It’s changed a bit along the way – my main character is now a film composer on a wilderness retreat in Sweden – but the creepy events, the unwanted return of a figure from her past, and the big final twist are all included. There
have been some wonderful early reviews on NetGalley so I’m really excited for its release.
Jennifer has apologised for writing ‘such a long post’, explaining that the above is very much a pared down version of events. But readers of this blog appreciate how tortuous the route to publication can be and will find her experience both fascinating and encouraging.
We wish her well with the launch of The Wilderness Retreat, which is currently available to pre-order on Amazon. I shall certainly be buying a copy!