Diary of a Debut Author By Jackie Kabler
I’ve loved books ever since I learned to read…as a child, I would lose myself in anything by Enid Blyton, and I read classics like Little Women and Black Beauty so many times that my copies fell apart. If I ever disappeared, my mother would always know exactly where to find me – lying on my back on my bed, book propped on my chest, devouring my latest find. Becoming an author was always something I had vague thoughts about, but as school, university and then pursuing my career – first as a zoologist and later as a journalist – took over, it was always “maybe one day”.
“One day” didn’t arrive until I was in my forties. I was working as a news reporter at GMTV, travelling the world covering political scandals, murders, floods and famines, and I needed an escape. So, I finally started writing a novel set, maybe predictably, in a television newsroom. At first it was just a romantic comedy, a story about a TV news reporter with a host of amusing friends and a less-than-successful love life. But even I felt that it wasn’t really working, and tentative approaches to literary agents all resulted in rejection, making me wonder if this writing business really was for me after all. Then I quit my job to work as a freelance newsreader and reporter, and life got even busier, so the book was stashed away, out of sight but never quite out of mind.
Six years later, and now having left the TV news business altogether, I dragged the manuscript out again, and reassessed it. In recent years, crime had become been my genre of choice as a reader, and I had covered hundreds of crimes as a reporter, so I suddenly wondered if I could turn this half-written novel into a murder mystery. A few months later, The Dead Dog Day was finished, a story still set in a TV newsroom, still with romantic and humorous elements, but now with murder at its heart. This time, when I started approaching agents and publishers, I was astounded, shocked and thrilled to suddenly find myself with an agent and three offers of publishing deals, and days later I signed a three-book contract with Accent Press.
Now of course, with an October publication day for The Dead Dog Day looming, it’s all about the fear…fear that nobody is going to buy, or enjoy, my debut; fear that negative reviews are going to be too tough to handle; fear that I’ll struggle with the second or third novel, that I only have one book in me after all. But the support I’ve already had from those who’ve read advance copies, and from the book blogging community, has been fantastic. I feel privileged, in my late forties, to have entered this incredible new world and to be able to call myself an author.
I write in the smallest bedroom in our Gloucestershire home. I’ve had it converted so it’s half huge walk-in wardrobe (fashion is another great love) and half study. I’m in London four days a week doing my day job (I’m now a presenter on shopping channel QVC), but spend as much time as possible writing on my three days off. On some days, the words flow effortlessly, and I‘ll sit down intending to write for half an hour, and emerge blinking from my study three hours later. On others, any little distraction will cause me to push my laptop aside – sunshine outside and a garden needing to be mowed; a funny video of a panda that’s popped onto my Twitter timeline; or, on one memorable day, the urgent need to see how many full turns I could do on my swivel chair without stopping (seven, if anyone is interested).
I’ve recently taken up endurance walking and am also training to do two and a half marathons non-stop next year, so pounding the canal tow-path gives me thinking time – little plot niggles are often smoothed out by the time I return. Copious amounts of weak, black Earl Grey tea are drunk, and a little too much salted caramel chocolate is consumed, but my second novel is slowly starting to take shape.
At the same time, the publicity machine ahead of novel one’s publication day has whirred slowly into live. Press releases have gone out, advance copies of the book are now with reviewers, I’m planning a (very low key, for this first book) book launch event and I’ve even set up an author page on Facebook, a social media site I’ve always had a strong aversion to. This week alone, I’ve done an interview with a book blogger and with my local newspaper, which printed a very nice piece about my three-book deal.
I still find it very strange to describe myself as an author, and seeing my name on my finished book cover for the first time was just the most extraordinary thing. I was so excited that I’m almost dreading seeing the book on a shelf in a book shop for the first time…I may need my husband, who’s a doctor, to be standing by, just in case…
There’s a line in a song by Canadian singer Drake that really strikes a chord as I approach publication day: “That’s around the time that your idols become your rivals”. I’m a long way from rivalling my literary idols right now, but I’ve finally taken one tiny step on the road to being a real writer, and despite the fear, I’m loving every minute.
Jackie Kabler worked as a newspaper reporter and then in television news for twenty years, including nearly a decade on GMTV. She later appeared on BBC and ITV news, presented a property show for Sky, hosted sports shows on Setanta Sports News and worked as a media trainer for the Armed Forces. She is now a presenter on shopping channel QVC and her first novel, The Dead Dog Day (Accent Press), is now available for pre-order on Amazon ahead of its release on 22nd October.