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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

"What kind of writer do you want to be?"

I had an interesting and very exciting phone call a few days ago while at work. My mobile buzzed with an 'unknown' number and I picked up, expecting more PPI rubbish, and we were cut-off as soon as I confirmed my name. The woman sounded very well-spoken and polite and, thinking it might have actually been something important about #son I pushed re-dial as I walked out of the office but it was engaged, and  I realised they were calling me back.

I accepted the call and nearly tripped over my own feet when the voice introduced herself as Teresa Chris from the literary agency of the same name.
Now, a brief (very brief!) background note here: I had kept coming back to that name in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, mostly because my name is Teresa and I was married to a man named Chris for 15 years!

Anyway, I digress. (channelling Ronnie Corbett, sorry.) Ms Chris has had the query package for Saturday's Child for a couple of months and was ringing to ask if I'd found representation yet. No, says I. Good, says she. She went on to ask a few questions, and said she had kept coming back to my MS - possibly in the same way I kept coming back to her listing in WAY -  and was starting to get a feeling about it. (I'm sure she used the word 'tingle' but I'm not 100% now; I wasn't particularly focused at the time!) She also asked about Penhaligon's Attic as I'd mentioned it in my covering letter as the project I was currently working on, and said she liked the sound of that one too as her heart is in Cornwall.

The point of this post though, is that she asked me an interesting question and I'm almost positive I came across like a simpering idiot in my reply. After ascertaining that my previous book (The Dust of Ancients) would not be suitable for her because it's fantasy, she asked me: "What kind of writer do you want to be?" And gave her reasoning, perfectly valid from a business point of view, that she couldn't put a lot of time and effort into developing my career if she thought I might suddenly decide I wanted to be a fantasy writer.

So, I told her I considered both Saturday's Child and Penhaligon's Attic to be women's fiction, and that The Dust of Ancients was something I'd written a long time ago (true) and was considering for self-publication (also true, although I have hopes for it). I stressed that I had settled well into women's fiction and would be happy to concentrate on that.
What I should have said, I think, is: "I want to be a writer who writes."  Okay, I'd very much like to be a writer who also sells, but I can't bear the thought of not letting my creativity have its head, at least sometimes. I could write women's fiction 'til I'm blue in the face, and I hope it would be readable and enjoyable, and competently written - possibly even sellable. But if I want to write an urban fantasy I don't want to feel as if I should be wearing a grubby overcoat, and only showing it to people in alleyways after dark.

So if Ms Chris shows any further interest in developing my career with me I will be extremely happy, and I will work hard for her and with her, and do everything in my power to build a solid working relationship that's mutually beneficial.
BUT - if she doesn't (because I don't know if I mentioned in my covering letter that Penhaligon's Attic is a ghost story!) and I get the feeling it's because she doesn't think I can stick to one kind of writing, well that's taught me merely to keep my mouth shut about other projects, not to stop working on them.

To sum up: she has asked for the full MS of Saturday's Child, and whatever I can give her of Penhaligon's Attic. She now has these and has asked for an exclusive for a couple of weeks while she mulls it over.
I can hope for the best, and I can easily take the worst and continue with my current projects: The Lynher Mill Chronicles and Penhaligon's Attic, and I can also dig out my very first novel (which I never mention but actually isn't too bad!) and get that one ready for pitching too. That's a straightforward, contemporary thriller; no ghosts, no Cornish spriggans, just a woman and her son and some bad guys. Oh, and one very very GOOD guy of course ;)

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