On Thursday last week something ridiculous happened. Actually, no, ridiculous doesn’t cover it. It was preposterous! The thing being this: my first novel was published. My first novel was published! Did you hear me?
Ah, sorry. I get a bit carried away when I think about it. It just feels so improbable: I, Lucy Robinson, a mere bumpkin of West Country origin, am the author of a novel which has a Penguin logo on the front of it. It’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me.
And yet I often feel sheepish about how it all happened. I feel like I should invent some dark story about how I threw years of my life into writing an epic novel about a fisherman from a small village near Calcutta . . . and then hawked myself with a dignified desperation around the cruel publishing houses of London (possibly limping.) And then, perhaps, I died of malnutrition and my broken hearted lover resigned from his job, took my dog-eared manuscript to his breast and campaigned for years until he achieved a posthumous publication of fifty copies.
It feels like a bit of a let-down when I tell the real tale, which goes roughly like this:
Started blog – was discovered – got book deal.
It’s not an urban myth. It happened to me.
In 2009 I was stuck in a – shall we say - challenging job which involved a lot of pain and no discernible gain. In a futile attempt to bring comfort to my miserable existence I took to eating thousands of Jaffa Cakes and going on dates with men I’d met on mysinglefriend.com. The dates, from the word go, were comedy gold and I knew it would be criminal to waste such brilliant material. So I began a blog for Marie Claire in which I documented my rather unpromising search for love.
The blog struck a chord with many and I was contacted by a publisher within six weeks of starting it. I met with her (rather inexplicably, I might add) in a deserted gay bar in Soho on a Monday evening and she told me she thought I should attempt a novel. I nodded dumbly and scampered off hoping she wouldn’t contact me again. I was quite sure that I did not have a novel in me.
But it turns out that I did.
I wrote it over the course of a year. The first half was written in bed, normally between the hours of midnight and 3am: the only free time I had. I wrote the second half in Argentina where I’d taken myself off to learn Spanish, attempt Tango and eat outstanding steak.
One afternoon I finished the final chapter. I sat alone in my apartment in Buenos Aires and punched the air. It was a boiling hot December day and the air conditioning was on full-blast. I went out to my balcony, muttered to myself about this all being completely mad and then went to bed and slept for three days.
And now, more than a year later, it’s in the shops. I have no idea what’ll happen next, but what I have realised is that I probably need to stop feeling embarrassed about having been 'discovered' because of my blog.
Because the thing is, the blog-to-book-deal thing does happen and furthermore it should happen. Editors routinely scour the blogosphere precisely because there is so much brilliant content out there. Hundreds – probably thousands - of talented writers who deserve a deal. Writers who are demonstrating with admirable tenacity their ability to keep on inventing, challenging and growing.
I imagine that for an editor the blogosphere must be like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Granted, there are several rancid offerings that should never have left the kitchen but for every twenty vats of congealed lasagne there’s bound to be one beautiful plate of fresh shrimp curry with fragrant coriander and perfectly fluffed rice. And the good news is that this curry already comes with a loyal fanbase. What’s not to love?
In typical writerly style I’ve always considered myself to be more congealed lasagne than fresh curry. But, fortunately for me, Penguin thought otherwise. And so today I want to encourage would-be bloggers to seize the day and put something out there. It may seem hopeless, adding your voice to the millions already jostling for space, but really – what have you got to lose? Blog! Blog right now!
Lucy's first novel The Greatest Love Story of All Time is published by Penguin and is out now at all major retailers and on Amazon.