I can hardly believe it; today is publication day for Caramel Hearts, which means that my second book is hitting the shelves! It is separate to the trilogy and for an older audience, so here’s a bit of info before I tell you how it all happened …
Can a book full of secrets unlock the past?
Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship. One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.
Structured around real cake recipes, Caramel Hearts is a coming-of-age novel about love, disappointment and hope, and discovering the true value of friends and family, no matter how dysfunctional they are.
The journey of this book was fraught with uncertainty. I wrote it because my first book hadn’t been signed, and I needed to write something else. Something that wasn’t like my rejected book – not fantasy, or middle grade, or anything like The Book of Learning! I’d put so much into that first book and needed to move into a different headspace.
There was no guarantee that Caramel Hearts would be any good, and even though I now had a wonderfully supportive agent, the way forward felt pretty bleak at times. But I knew that being an author was what I really, really wanted and what I really, really cared about, so there was no way I was giving up. The decision to shelve The Book of Learning and start all over again was a difficult one, but a new book gave me something to concentrate and focus on, rather than the recent rejections.
When I started typing the first sentence of Caramel Hearts, did I believe it was ever going to get published? I hoped so, but the knockbacks – all part of the process but still difficult to deal with, especially in the early days – can be distracting, especially when you’re getting good feedback but still no deal. And yet, despite the upset and frustration, I couldn’t not write.
It was at this point, at this moment of realisation that I decided to stop focusing on the end result, on getting that elusive book deal, and instead, on enjoying the process. Coincidentally, this is also when things really began to fall into place. I found that I enjoyed turning up to my desk every day much more when I wasn’t worrying about whether I was good enough or ever going to be good enough. The words flowed. The edits flowed.
It took a year to write and edit Caramel Hearts with the help of my agent. But when it went on submission, it felt different to last time; instead of excitement, I felt fear. What if I got close to getting signed again but it still didn’t happen?
I remember asking myself – OK, if you truly want this, how many books are you willing to write that will be potentially never be published? When will you stop?
The answer was: I would write as many books as needed and I’d never stop. I had written a whole other book after the first one was rejected, and I would do it again. And again.
And so, that’s exactly what I did. I sat and wrote another first draft of a different story, to distract myself and continue improving my craft. I also reread my The Book of Learning manuscript and still felt it was good enough. I removed the word ‘very’ as a token gesture and it went back out on submission. The fear doubled.
It turns out that I needn’t have worried. A month later, The Book of Learning was signed in a three-book deal and a couple of months after that, Caramel Hearts was also signed. Two book deals within six months, four books in total signed and three of those books to be published in my first year as an author – a dream come true!
And so, here we are: publication day of my second book, Caramel Hearts. It’s a change in age group and genre, but a book I really believe in and I hope you enjoy it.
Hope to see you there! Thank you for celebrating my book birthday with me! 🙂