I’m fifty-seven years old and I started writing seriously ten years ago. Everything was against me. Older. Working class. Female. Yet I still succeeded.
Before that I had written short stories and a completed novel that I didn’t send out because I didn’t think writing was for people like me. I’d had a short story published in a magazine and written some articles for local newspapers. My problem had been time. Like a lot of women, day job and family life kept me ultra-busy and unable to spend long hours in front of a computer – my job had been to make the coffee and food while other people did that.
But in 2007, fresh out of a part-time PhD in Identity Construction, funded, because I am working class from a deprived area, everything changed. I realised that writing academic papers and a text book were something I would need to do, but there were other ways to use what I had learned.
So I set myself a target of five novels to transmit the story of what I had learned. And that’s when the fun and games began.
People around me had been supportive of my late entry into academia, but when I told them I was writing a novel the reaction was mixed. I plotted and wrote and joined writing groups. I read books on creative writing and I wrote another novel. All the while I was submitting to agents with some positive responses, but no one signed me.
Eventually, a delegation of people close to me began to sound out the possibility of failure. They pointed out that success in getting published was akin to winning the X Factor, and that maybe at -by this time – approaching fifty years old, I might be being a little over-optimistic? And perhaps time was running out?
I didn’t think so. I was worried about not living in publishing-centric London, but I was having the time of my life. I was plotting and falling in love with my characters and with creativity. I was waking in the night with the people in the novels calling to me and phoning my landline answerphone to tell myself ideas when I couldn’t find a pen and paper. I just had to write. In 2015 I submitted my speculative fiction novel SmartYellow to Elsewhen Press and they agreed to publish it. The same year I won Kindle Scout. While I was unsure as to exactly what would happen, I soon found that the initial book, Random Acts of Unkindness, was in the top 100 books in UK and US. Kindle Press, a publishing imprint of Amazon, published my DS Jan Pearce crime fiction series.
But I still had a novel I had been writing over four years on my flash drive. It was an angry story of a woman scorned and her journey. I was delighted with the books I had published and by their success, but I was still unagented. I had always said that if didn’t get an agent by the time I was 55 I would give up. I finished Perfect Ten in December 2015, polished it over the Christmas break and sent it out to agents in January 2016 with a killer covering letter.
I had interest and I was signed two weeks later by my wonderful agent Judith Murray. She sold Perfect Ten to Corvus Atlantic Books and the mass market paperback will be in supermarkets and WH Smiths on 4th April 2019.
It was a two book deal and the second book will be released in November 2019.
So it really is never too late. I am really just starting my writing career, and who knows where it will take me? I have just finished another novel and delivered to my agent and I am loving writing – I can’t foresee me ever stopping! But if I had listened to the world, where age is so often a barrier, especially for women, I would never have got to this place.
Never, ever let anyone tell you that you are too old to start a writing career. You have something to say. Say it.