Author of The Everyday Witch Liz Martinez shares her story of landing a publishing deal.
What does it mean to be a writer?
There was a time recently when I started referring to myself as a writer, rather than an ex-lawyer. I think that was a turning point. It’s a state of mind, a commitment, rather than a publishing contract, although seeing my books on the shelves in bookshops helps.
What was your lucky break?
Undoubtedly when Bloomsbury offered me my contract for The Everyday Witch. Coincidentally, within two weeks I was offered another contract, by Kids Safety Net, for my book Angel Seeds. Both cases arose initially from enthusiastic and supportive friends who talked about my work.
Did you get any knockbacks?
Yes, of course. The Everyday Witch was rejected by one agent, and one publisher before Bloomsbury accepted it. I think any writer who is never rejected is either extremely fortunate, very brilliant and super-commercial, or isn’t submitting enough.
How does a ‘no’ affect you?
The best rejections are those which give feedback, enabling me to look objectively at my work and decide whether to change my manuscript or not. I have had some which said, we like it but it doesn’t fit in with what we’re publishing at the moment, and that’s fair enough. Publishers are swamped with submissions. I have never received a rejection which said “we hate your work” or “give up now”.
I usually remind myself that it’s not personal, and if there was feedback I write a pleasant letter back to say thank you. Then I start looking again for another market.
Where do you get your best ideas?
Funnily enough, the more I write, the more I am inspired to write. Recent ideas have come from conversations with friends, requests from my daughter, prompts from an online course I’m taking, meditation, themes set by writing competitions…
I prefer to work effortlessly. If I strain over an idea it’s not fresh. I carry a notebook with me and jot down ideas all the time (sometimes just a word or an image) and from time to time I look through the book. I also keep a to-do list of things to write when I have a free moment. I find learning very inspirational. At the moment I am doing Pam Casto’s online flash fiction course which is generating lots of ideas, stories and “flashes”. Ideas come from all over the place. The main thing for me is not to worry about them.
What advice would you give a budding author?
Write as much as you can, write what you enjoy writing, and remember that most of the “advice” you receive from others will be their opinion, based on their experience, not on yours. There are some you should listen to. You will know who they are.
Do you stick to a working routine?
Yes, I take the children to school, then it’s essential coffee time, usually at Starbucks at my local Borders where I know all the staff. I used to read the paper and do the crossword first, then wait for ideas to interrupt me, at which point I would start writing. Now I can’t even look at the paper until I have written first, and there’s usually no time for the crossword before I’m back on the school run.
I have some blissful mornings when I write with my writing buddy, Virginia. She’s a novelist and very focused. I like to sit in her aura while I write. We have the same taste in coffee shops and we manage to write without disturbing each other. We went on a self-imposed writing retreat weekend recently, and were moved on from one seaside coffee shop because we were writing more than we were drinking. Otherwise, I prefer to write alone.
After the children have gone to bed I spend the evening at the laptop, finishing off anything I have started during the day.
Who do you admire?
Julia Donaldson. I love her rhyming picture books. I wish I had written The Snail and the Whale – it’s the perfect children’s book. Susan Richardson, whom I met recently, is a very talented performance poet who manages to bring humour to serious environmental subjects.
I am mostly in awe of novelists. How did Emily Bronte manage to write Wuthering Heights? Or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Or Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger. I wish I could do that.
Liz Martinez was a highly respected medical negligence lawyer for many years before leaving the legal profession to raise a family. She began writing children's books in 2006.