I’m very pleased to welcome Jen Mouat to the blog today. Jen has recently had her first book published earlier this month by HQ Digital and in this guest post she tells us about her inspiring journey to publication and how Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway has hugely inspired her. You can buy a copy of the book online here.
I’m so happy to be here in such great company. As a seasoned reader and a very newly published author, this is right up my street.
My name is Jen Mouat. I’ve been writing a book as long as I can remember – not always the same one. Here is the story of my journey to publication.
For most of my secretive writing career (I used to hide my scribblings in a suitcase under the bed) the goal of actually being published was very far away – mainly because it would involve people reading what I’d written. At the same time as being appalled at the prospect of putting my writing out there, I was set on becoming an author.
Firstly, I had to conceive an idea I’d actually stick with, one I believed in enough to commit the necessary blood, sweat and tears, allow it to consume my life. I had to find something that I not only wanted to write, but couldn’t not write.
It started with an engagement. For many years I’ve been obsessed with Dumfries and Galloway, due to idyllic interludes on beautiful Solway beaches as a child. Seven years ago, my boyfriend spirited me back there, brought me to the very edge of a cliff overlooking the firth and proposed marriage. I said yes, -not solely due to vertigo – and we spent a wonderful week exploring, during which time I discovered Wigtown.
A whole town filled with bookshops; what’s not to love? I started writing a story set in a Wigtown bookshop, and spent the next few years developing it, but I didn’t have enough self belief to make it stick. In July 2014 I confessed my dream to my best friend, an American and fellow lover of books, and she asked to read it. I gave her a chapter, then another, until finally I was writing so that she could keep reading (she had rules: no animal death and must have a happy ending). She was captivated by the idea of Wigtown and suggested a ‘research’ trip. This entailed visiting a lot of cafes and bookshops whilst talking endlessly about my story.
My friend is the kind every writer needs in her corner. Just the right amount of supportive nudging to make me see that I couldn’t wait for a publisher to turn up on my doorstep and beg for my book (I would love if this had happened). I’d done my research and knew the agent I wanted. One problem: her books were closed for submissions.
That year we visited the Wigtown Book Festival, and speculated about me being the author on that platform, reading from my novel, giving advice to wannabe writers. In truth it still felt a million miles away. I suffered from the same self doubt as all those who pluck ideas from their heads and hope others will like/buy them.
I chatted to authors and was told it would be hard, you have to be dogged, ready for rejection, in the right place at the right time. One told me I would need to find my inner pushy American, to which my friend replied that I already had one of those.
The following summer the book was finished and the programme for the Wigtown Festival came out. I flicked through, gave my friend my wish list so she could book tickets. She called immediately, telling me to check out an event: the agent I’d had my sights set on was hosting The Big Pitch, a chance to show up and pitch her a book idea. I signed up, deciding to deal with the terror later, and was allocated a fifteen minute slot.
Later arrived, the terror was pretty immense. I read about elevator pitches, worked out the over-arching themes, got clear about genre and market and took advantage of the help and bolstering from my support team With my friend it was belief, telling me over and over that I could do this; with my husband it was brevity – he reckons my motto is why use one word when fifty will suffice. He also mostly rewrote my synopsis for me, without having read the book at this point.
Fully prepped and pumped up I went to Wigtown, endured a sleepless night, ate no breakfast and entered the room ready to make something happen. It was one of those rare, beautiful moments of alignment; I was in Wigtown, which I adored, pitching a book idea I utterly believed in, set in a bookshop in the very place we were celebrating.
It went well. I was invited to send my novel. I would love to say that was it, but I had no idea how much work my book still needed. We had to lose fifty thousand words (see: brevity not my strong suit) and redraft until it was ready to send to publishers. Then I endured months of waiting, interspersed with rejections – some regretful, most polite, one brutal! – even with an agent on your side that isn’t easy.
We signed with HQ Digital in January 2017. Then came more editing. When authors say that a book needs many people to bring it to fruition, it’s true. There was a strange moment of genuine revelation when I realised my editor had figured out the essence of my story better than I had. I was like: so that’s what I meant!
In August 2017 my book Summer at Bluebell Bank hit the digital shelves. I couldn’t be more proud; but mostly I am grateful. My book is dedicated to my husband and my Pushy American because without them playing their part, this would still be just a wistful daydream.
On 30th September 2017 I will be appearing at The Wigtown Book Festival, where it all began. I will sit on that platform and remember my friend saying one day that will be you. The theme of my talk is the route to publication, and I will tell the writers who ask that, yes, you need to be dogged, ready for rejection, in the right place at the right time; but I will also tell them that they need to write because not writing isn’t an option, and they need to surround themselves with people who believe, because behind the scenes they’re the ones making the magic happen.
Summer at Bluebell Bank is published by HQ Digital, available as an e-book. Find me on Facebook – Jen Mouat Author and on twitter @jenmouat_author
You can find information about Wigtown Book Festival at http://www.wigtownbookfestival.com
Back of the book info
Returning home is never smooth sailing…
Summoned by her childhood best friend, Kate Vincent doesn’t stop to think. Instead she books at one-way ticket from New York back to Wigtown, Scotland, leaving her glittering new life behind. Scenes of idyllic holidays at Bluebell Bank with the Cotton family dance in her mind, but not everything has stayed the way it once was… Especially when her first love, Luke, returns to town.
Emily Cotton never expected one email, sent off in a wine-fuelled daze, to bring her old friend barrelling through the front door of her dismally failing bookshop. But life for the Cottons isn’t what it once was; Emily’s brothers are hardly speaking, her beloved grandmother isn’t quite the same and Emily…well, Emily is the one most in need of Kate’s help.
Kate has given herself until the end of the summer to stay in Wigtown. Can she bring the Cottons back together, and save the family who once saved her?