You heard right, it’s publication day today for Helen Cox and her debut novel ‘Milkshakes & Heartbreak at the Starlight Diner’! TWG would like to say a HUGE congratulations to Helen as I know how hard she has been working to get to this moment!
I am honoured to be kicking off Helen’s blog tour today, so let’s get started shall we? I don’t know about you, but I fancy a milkshake, in a diner, with a classic jukebox. Where can I find that I wonder…..
‘Esther Knight is sharp, sarcastic – and hiding something. She waitresses at The Starlight Diner: a retro eatery where Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and the tastiest milkshakes in New York are served.
Nobody at the diner knows why Esther left London for America – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.
Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?
Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is a witty, romantic, New York-inspired novel.’
Well that was rather handy wasn’t it? 😉
To get your own milkshake fix at the Starlight Diner, whenever you want, head over to Amazon UK, and your copy will be with you quicker than a shake of a tail feather!
Helen Cox has written a guest post especially for us here at TWG. I suppose I had better stop rambling and hand you over to the lady herself!
My Book Deal Moment by Helen Cox.
It was mid-December and after six solid months of receiving rejection emails on an almost daily basis, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to land either an agent or a publishing deal by the close of 2015.
Yes, I’d poured my heart into that first novel and, yes, I’d had the same bright-eyed hope that all aspiring authors have that somebody would recognise what I was trying to ‘do’ with the story, but nobody had. So, it was time to stop moaning about it on my Twitter feed, binge on festive treats and start novel two in January.
Or so I thought.
Whilst I was on the phone to our Mam one December evening however, a life-changing email popped up in my inbox.
‘Mam!’ I interrupted her mid-monologue about the arrangements for Christmas dinner. ‘I’ve just had an email through from HarperCollins. They’re saying… they’re saying they want to publish my novel.’
Though I said the words out loud, something about that sentence didn’t sound right to me. For a moment there was only silence from the other end of the line and then Mam asked: ‘Are you sure it’s not a scam email?’
‘What?’ I shook my head but checked for any scam-like signs before replying: ‘No, Mam. It’s real. It’s definitely from HarperCollins.’
‘I can’t believe it.’ said Mam.
‘Thanks.’ I replied in the flattest of all possible tones. ‘Oh my God, they’re talking about publishing a Starlight Diner series!’
‘Have you got enough in your brain for that?’ Mam asked.
‘Yes Mother,’ I replied. Grateful that even if I did become blindingly famous off the back of my first novel my straight-talking Yorkshire parents would make sure I was kept well and truly down to earth.
‘Hang on,’ said Mam. ‘Your Dad’s just come in from work. Tell ‘im.’
There was a scuffling sound whilst the phone was handed over.
‘Hello? Hello?’ Dad said at last, checking their shilly-shallying hadn’t disconnected the call, a trick they’d managed on more than one occasion.
‘Hi Dad, I’ve just had an email from the publishers, HarperCollins. They’re saying they want to publish my novel.’
‘Are HarperCollins big like?’ Came Dad’s response.
‘Yes,’ I replied, deflated and slipping into full stroppy teenager mode at the age of thirty-four. ‘They’re like, one of the biggest publishers out there.’
‘Oh, well I’m ignorant,’ Dad admitted. ‘But that’s good news. Well done.’
How did this oh-so-glamorous moment happen if I didn’t even have an agent? Well, in short, by getting my manuscript in front of people who worked in publishing and believed in my writing. I was lucky enough to know Gigi Woolstencroft who once worked at HarperCollins. She read my manuscript and recommended it to Helena Sheffield at the Avon Books imprint who in turn believed in it enough to share it with commissioning editor Natasha Harding.
I thought, at best, I’d get a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ email with perhaps some hints as to why my work was being rejected. Instead, I later found out that Helena had been taking my novel around the office saying ‘you have to read this, you just have to.’
Though there was only about a six month wait between finishing my first draft and securing a publishing contract, my experience shouldn’t be looked upon as an over-night success story. Yes, six months after I moved to writing fiction I was fortunate enough to have an offer of publication but those six months were preceded by a decade of working all hours to establish myself as a writer. I wrote for advertising companies, websites, blogs and newspapers. I even established my own film magazine which I edited for five years. I self-published a couple of non-fiction volumes and had a non-fiction book published by The History Press. Much of this was achieved alongside a full-time teaching job.
On top of that, the rejection process was tough, as I believe it is for any writer. Six months of daily rejection emails is still a lot of rejection to deal with. I’d experienced less rejection at school discos, and I was a 14 year-old Star Wars enthusiast who liked her food a bit more than she should.
Still, I kept showing my work to people because I believed in it and, based on the experience I’ve had, I’d encourage other aspiring authors to do the same. Maybe in the short-term all you’ll get is some feedback on your work. But if you act on that feedback, if you keep honing what you’ve written and keep submitting to contests, publishers and agents the likelihood is at some point your story will wind up on the desk of the right person. Dozens of agents read my work before Gigi, Helena and Natasha and if a book deal can happen for me this way, it can happen to anyone else just the same.
Thank you for such a great post! If you’re an aspiring writer or author, then this post is definitely one to keep in your mind.
You can keep up to date with Helen and her ‘Starlight Diner’ series via: