That’s the common perception of a writer’s chosen profession, but I’m not convinced it’s accurate anymore. Yes, it’s just me, a keyboard and my imagination, but there’s also a massive support system out there, albeit virtual, so you’re absolutely never alone. (No, I’m not hearing voices—cancel the men in white coats.) I’ve made more cyber friends, felt more love and generous support through the Internet than I would ever have thought possible. I mean, we’re all writers, and we’re indirectly in competition with one another, so why would anyone want to share their knowledge and expertise? Because authors are generous souls, understand the pitfalls and struggles it takes to become recognised, and because…well, because all decent people instinctively feel the need to offer a helping hand when asked, I suppose.
I wrote my first book using an electric typewriter, carbon paper, (remember that?), and endless pots of correction fluid. If I needed to do research I consulted an encyclopaedia or took myself off to the library. It was time-consuming, often frustrating, and you really had to want to do it—trust me on this. The book I produced was terrible, and never would have seen the light of publication, even if I’d had the remotest idea about how to go about submitting it. How I admire authors who went through the publication process in those days! Even so, I kept the book, unearthed it years later, and the plot formed part of one of my Regencies subsequently published by Robert Hale. Moral of the story, never throw anything away.
I took up writing again seriously about ten years ago. My how things had changed! Word processing revolutionised the typing process, and the internet was in its infancy. Nowadays I can do my research as I go along—just open another tab, consult the god Google, job done. Failing that, I post a question on one of the many authors’ loops I participate in, and hey-presto, an answer comes flying back through cyberspace at warp speed. Solitary? I don’t think so.
I spend literally half of every year continent-hopping, living out of a suitcase. Even as recently as five years ago, the thought of having to leave my precious research books behind brought me out in hives. Now I can find just about anything I need to know on-line.
Better yet, the publishing jungle has been stripped bare by those in the know, and no longer seems to be quite such a maze of don’t bother us unless you have an agent type responses. Times they are a-changing, with epublishing and self-publishing taking centre stage. Could the lunatics finally be in charge of the asylum? Are readers rather than publishers forcing the direction of the market? 50 Shades has made it acceptable to enjoy erotica rather than pretending to devour the entire shortlist for the Booker prize. Women enjoy reading about damaged zillionaires and S.E.X. Who would have thought it?
These are uncertain times, with no one being sure where the industry will be in ten years’ time. What does it take to make it in this new revolution they call publishing? Wish I knew. All I can tell you is that it requires a hide like a rhinoceros to withstand some of the downright vicious reviews. (Didn’t the critics’ mothers teach them that if you have nothing nice to say, shut the hell up?). On the opposite side of the coin, receiving emails from readers saying how much pleasure they received from your scribbling reminds a writer why she does it.
Me, I’ve just dipped my toe into self-publishing, but I’m not ready to let my publishers go, either. Best of both worlds does it for me. I need my safety net, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I now have almost fifty published books to my credit. Yeah, I know, I need to get a life! I write regencies and contemporary romance under my own name, as well as a few marine crime mysteries. I also write erotica under a pen name, but I still don’t have the confidence to go it completely alone. Maybe when I reach book one hundred…