As some of you might know, the journey of my novel The Time Crystals towards publication has been something of a novel in itself—a story of twists and reversals, defeats and triumphs, despair and elation.
I’d been writing on and off my whole life, often combined with other things. In 2011, conscious that my obsession with writing novels wasn’t going to go away, I left my job at the Eden Project in Cornwall after 11 years, determined to give my fledgling writing career a proper chance.
Over the next year or so I wrote The Time Crystals, a time travel adventure for children and young adults. The story was my passion, and all the time I could spare was spent immersed in its world.
(Stepping is my married name)
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
In 2013, via my writers’ group Scribophile, I heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) and, with nothing to lose, I sent off my manuscript. Since ABNA generally received 10,000 entries, my hopes of success weren’t exactly high. However, to my complete surprise, I reached the final five in the Young Adult category. I’ll never forget the shock I felt on seeing my name in that shortlist. I was one little step away from a publishing contract with a $15,000 advance.
Well, I didn’t win (the excellent Rysa Walker did, with the first in her Chronos Files series). However, I did scoop a highly encouraging review from Publishers Weekly, who described my novel as “a thrilling time travel page-turner … hair-raising, edge-of-your-seat events culminating in a delightful story that packs a powerful values punch relevant to both young and not-so-young adults”.
Read the full review here
The Next Novelist
So, a fabulous boost, but not quite there. Having got so much further than I expected in the ABNA contest, a few months later I decided to try my luck with another. This was a new one called The Next Novelist, and was also international with a good prize: a non-returnable advance of $5000, plus a publishing deal.
When I got the news that I’d actually won, I felt like I’d slipped into a parallel universe. Things like that simply didn’t happen to ordinary people from clay country villages, did they? It was an amazing, exciting time, and included articles in the local paper and interviews on the radio. (One of the best things about it, about both contests, was all the new friendships I made and still have.)
So, happy ending, right? Well, no. Not quite. The contest was a new project and its organisers had no track record in publishing, a much tougher business than people might imagine. To cut a long story short, although I received the money, the company involved ceased trading before my book came out.
All very frustrating, to say the least. To make things worse, everything concerning this novel had to be put on hold while I waited to get my rights back, according to the terms of the contract.
Meanwhile I carried on polishing my manuscript. I worked on other books, including the sequel to The Time Crystals. I published short stories in a variety of anthologies. Giving up simply wasn’t an option.
After getting my rights back I contacted Books to Treasure, an independent publisher I have been watching for a while, and which I very much admire.
They said YES!
The Time Crystals is scheduled to appear in paperback and ebook next year. I’ll tell you more as the story unfolds. Meanwhile, to anyone following a dream, whatever it might be, I’d say keep going. Don’t let anyone put you off.
More on The Time Crystals on my website here