When I tell people I have a book coming out (I still struggle to call myself an ‘author’) they always have loads of questions: Have you always wanted to be a writer? How long did it take you to write Saturdays at Noon? Where do you get your ideas from? Do you have contacts in the publishing industry? And I usually stand there like a lemon with very little to say because actually I’ve not taken the time to reflect on the process – it all sort of just happened and here I am with a book I’ve written sitting on my bedside table and about to make its way out into the shops. And the whole thing feels somewhat incomprehensible.
If I start at the start – have I always wanted to be a writer? Then the answer is yes, absolutely. I’ve loved books since the day my mum first read me a bedtime story. To me, going to a bookshop is as relaxing as going to a spa. And I’ve always written – be it adventure stories as a child, angsty poetry and song lyrics as a teen, and then various attempts at a novel as an adult. But, to me, being an author was a pipe dream – never something that could actually become a reality. So writing became something I just enjoyed doing every now and again and my novel remained unfinished.
And then one day my husband received an e-mail about a Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course and he forwarded it to me. It was a selective course (you had to submit a synopsis and the first three thousand words of your novel) so I thought I’d apply convinced I’d never even hear back. But I did. We were in the car going to an event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and I received an e-mail to say they loved my submission and wanted to offer me a place. And it felt very ‘meant to be’ to happen at that moment and I remember sitting in the event dreaming that maybe one day I’d be up there talking about my book.
Being selected for the course was the motivation I needed to finally sit down and finish my novel. It was the thing that quelled the self-doubt just enough for me to get the words down on paper. So to answer the question ‘how long did it take to write Saturdays at Noon?’ – I’ve been writing something that resembles it for as long as I can possibly remember – a story about two unlikely strangers who found something in each other that they needed. These two characters have taken many guises over the years, they’ve met in different places, had different issues, names, faces, but that core of the story has always remained. But as for when I actually started the version of the story as it is today, I honestly couldn’t pin it down.
In terms of where I get my ideas from – I am definitely a people person. I’ve always loved psychology, why people are the way they are, relationship dynamics. And I’m a sucker for a complex love story – not just boy meets girl but also the love story between a parent and a child, between two people who have been married for years, even between friends. I desperately miss all those wonderful emotional dramas I grew up on – Good Will Hunting, When a Man Loves a Woman, Jerry Maguire, Love Actually – if I’m not crying at some point during a film then I feel it’s a waste of time me having watched it! And where were all the funny but heartbreaking contemporary dramas I loved to read? The classic Nick Hornby, David Nicholls stuff? At the time of writing Saturdays at Noon, there didn’t seem much of it around. So I suppose I wrote what I wanted to read. And also, of course, like with many writers, there’s part of real life in there. Saturdays at Noon is definitely not autobiographical but the character of the six-year old boy, Alfie, is influenced by the experiences I’ve had with my eldest son – fascinating and infuriating in equal measure – and the people we’ve met along our journey in trying to understand him better. I suppose I wanted to be brutally honest about how hard parenting can be, especially when your child doesn’t ‘fit the mould,’ but also to show how much these extraordinary children can enrich your life, how they actually make you a better person.
And finally – did I know anyone in the publishing industry? No! Before this, I’d only been to London a handful of times. I went to a state school and live in a small town in the countryside. The publishing world was completely alien to me. So I just googled the agents of authors that I liked and submitted to them. After a couple of months of blanket rejections, I came close to giving up. But I worked on my submission some more and tried again. And one day, only a few hours after I’d sent the e-mail, an agent replied to say she loved it and could I send her the whole manuscript. I cried and danced around the kitchen and then waited, refreshing my inbox every few seconds. In the end, I was lucky enough to get four offers of representation and had this crazy day in London meeting them all, one after the other. I always thought it would be amazing to have a choice of agents but I actually found it really stressful – it felt like such a pivotal decision. But I made my choice (an excellent one it turns out) and I’ve never looked back.
And now I have a book sitting beside me with my name on the cover and the iconic penguin in the corner and it’s nice to stop sometimes, look back on that ten-year-old girl who dreamed of being an author and say ‘you did it!’
(c) Rachel Marks
About Saturdays at Noon:
Emily just wants to keep the world away.
She doesn’t want anyone to know all the ways her life is messed up.
Going to anger management every Saturday, talking to strangers, was not part of the plan.
Jake just wants to keep his family together.
Somehow, he’s messed everything up.
Going to anger management is now his best hope to save his marriage and bond with his six-year-old Alfie.
Emily can’t understand why Jake – who seems to have it all – is there.
Jake can’t understand why Alfie – who never likes strangers – lights up around spiky Emily.
Everything they think about each other is about to change.
But can they change how they feel about themselves?
THE STUNNING DEBUT WITH A DIFFERENCE. Perfect for fans of One Day and The Rosie Project
Order your copy online here.