At the end of May, A Mother’s Heart was published in the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada. And this book is an extra special one for me. Because it’s my tenth novel, in my tenth year as a published author. And as I’ve also now taken fifty spins around the sun, there’s no way to avoid a spot of self-reflection. What have I achieved? What author goals are yet to be ticked off my ever-growing wish list? And what have I learned since I started out wide-eyed and naïve as a debut author?
On that last note, in no particular order, here are ten things I wish I’d known, one for each year that I’ve been published…
- My number one job is to write. I know there are so many other things that need to happen to take a book from manuscript to bestseller, but my priority, my main goal, is to write an original cracker of a read every year. The rest is pretty much out of my control. A bestseller would be excellent, and I won’t lie, it’s one of the main goals for each new release. But consistent sales are more important than one week’s book chart success. Wonderfully, I’ve learned that books are full of surprises, finding new readers years after they were published.
- Every day is a school day. In each book I’ve written, I’ve learnt something about my writing voice or the industry I work in. And I take this knowledge with me to the next book. I genuinely believe that a writer’s voice is like any muscle – the more it’s used, the more toned and robust it gets.
- If I didn’t write books that excite me, I’d never last the pace. I don’t write for trends because they too will pass. Each book I write is different to the previous one and has a subject matter or theme that I’m interested in. I’ve travelled all over the world courtesy of my books and walked in the shoes of the most incredible characters. That sustains me.
- I thought I was a patient soul, but there have been times that even my patience has been tested over the past ten years. Because publishing moves at a different speed than most everything else. There’s a lot of waiting in this game. I’ve learned to put on my loungewear, pour a coffee, and make myself comfy. Then I remind myself that all good things are worth waiting for.
- Self-promotion will only sell so many books. If I spend all day on canva creating assets, it won’t make me a bestseller. Along with a great book, authors need the might of our publishers’ support, who have a far more extensive reach than we authors ever can. That said, my readers are my number one priority. I write for them. So I put my efforts into engaging with them on social media. And anything I share with them comes from my authentic self. I talk books, dogs, children, coffee, gin, cake and much more! Around publication month, there’s a lot of sharing of book news, but I hope those that are following me, are in my corner and want to know what’s going on book wise.
- I’ve learned that the word ‘no’ can be a beautiful thing. The first agent offer or the first publishing deal that lands on our desk is exciting, but it may not be the best one for you. I wish I’d taken a beat to understand offers on the table back in the beginning. A wrong agent is as detrimental to your career as no agent at all, is all I’m saying. I’ve made mistakes that have slowed me down. But the other side of that coin is that I’ve also said no when it was suggested that I say yes. It has always been the right decision when I have trusted my gut.
- Find your tribe, hold them close and protect them at all costs. It might take a while to find the right tribe for you. I took a few wrong turns before I found mine. My writing life is a lot more fun now that I have the right people supporting me! Be kind to others. There’s room for everyone’s books. I never understand it when I see people knocking others. Thankfully in my experience, I’ve found that most people in publishing are lovely except for one or two.
- It’s just as important to be kind to ourselves too. Back yourself. Celebrate all the wins. Oh, don’t forget to develop a thick skin because there will be falls and knocks; it comes with the territory. An unbreakable rule is never to engage with a bad review. Authors rarely come off looking sane when they get into it with a reviewer. I’ve been lucky with incredibly supportive, kind reviews over the past ten years. But I’ve had a couple of corkers that stung. That’s where my tribe comes in, my safe place to vent. And remember, opinions are subjective. I had a great lesson in this a few years ago. A national newspaper reviewed one of my books, and suffice to say, they didn’t enjoy the book. But a few months later, the same newspaper did an annual ‘Best of the Year’ roundup, and the very same book was included in their top 5 books of the year, as chosen by another reviewer. Funny old book world.
- It’s natural to compare yourself to others, but no good will come from it. If I look at the writers I’m closest to, no two of us have had the same writing journey. Sometimes we’ve jumped two steps ahead, and other times we’ve seemed to take two steps back. But, of course, it’s worth remembering that a lot of what is seen on social media is smoke and mirrors. And that can give us all a touch of the imposter syndrome. I continue to try hard to slay that beast.
- I’ve always been a daydreamer. And books have been my passion since I was four years old. Now I’ve married the two together, and daydreaming is an integral and legitimate part of my career as a published author. Pretty cool, right? Every day I get to turn my thoughts and imaginings into words. I work hard, but I choose my own hours around family life. My commute to work takes seconds, and it’s casual Friday every day. I write the world the way I see it. Warm, uplifting stories about family, friendships, love and life within complex, twisting plots. I’m a storyteller. There is no other career that I would choose. And I cannot wait to see what the next ten years bring.
(c) Carmel Harrington
About A Mother’s Heart:
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
While Rachel Butler likes her life in a pretty Dublin coastal village, her heart lies in Hawke’s Bay, where she grew up. Visiting for the first time since tragedy tore her family apart, she and her stepchildren fall for its beauty and outdoor lifestyle.
As Rachel picks up the threads of her life as a single parent, she can’t shake off the memories of her loving family in New Zealand – and her dream house, the villa on the bay. But it’s time to move forwards with their life in Ireland, close to the children’s grandparents, amid the familiar surroundings they all know well.
Until the children’s grandmother, still grieving, starts to interfere, questioning Rachel’s position as stepmother.
Until Rachel’s attempts to strengthen the family she loves so dearly backfires, pitting everyone against each other.
And until her late husband’s parents mend the rift that has existed as long as she’s been married – bringing with them an explosive secret . . .
Order your copy online here.