A key element in every writer’s toolbox is resilience. You can’t keep going without it. Writing is tough. There’s no sugar coating that. Rejection is an everyday part of it. Critiques and bad reviews can be heart breaking but every day we have to get up and keep going even when we just feel that it will never get better. A writer without resilience stops writing.
Many things can keep us going. Writing groups, determination, and most of all belief.
For me resilience ties in with belief – not so much in myself but in the stories I want to tell, in my very talented and supportive friends (and their belief in me), and in the way stories have a way of finding their place.
A few years ago I was between publishers. I had just finished the successful Dubh Linn series for O’Brien Press and was wondering what I wanted to write next. I had a number of different ideas I wanted to try out. They were all YA. So I started writing just for me. I had an insane rush of creativity and wrote a book in a couple of months, maybe 6 weeks. It was not really the type of YA being written at the time, younger protagonists, a more old school style (think Tom’s Midnight Garden or The Children of Green Knowe, a bit of Diana Wynne Jones about it). And sadly my agent and I could not for the life of us find a publisher. Sometimes this happens. It’s a part of writing life. The market shifts, or the time isn’t right. It’s something that, as a writer, you learn to deal with. Sometimes you just have to wait.
So we put it to one side and moved on. Sad, but sometimes that’s what happens. I moved to Bookouture, the Jessica Thorne pen name was developed and we very happily published the mad Space Opera (The Queen’s Wing, followed by The Stone’s Heart) which I had been wanting to write for years, and an Epic Fantasy duology (Mageborn and Nightborn) which I developed for them.
But that little story we didn’t sell was still niggling at the back of my mind. Then one day, while discussing new paths and moving to more adult fiction rather than YA and looking at fabulism and folkloric or rural fantasy instead of all out epic fantasy, I suggested rewriting my poor neglected book. My editor read it, loved the idea, and jumped on it. So The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall was born.
It’s a very different book in a lot of ways – wartime setting in part, f/f romance in the other, along with a blend of fantasy with deep roots in English folklore, Arthurian legends and rural traditions – but at its heart it is the same little book, just all grown up.
It was just waiting for the right editor, publisher and the right time.
This is actually not the first time this has happened to me. The Queen’s Wing was originally written in third person. It was a perfectly fine book but something in it wasn’t quite working. I couldn’t figure it out. But one day, in a conversation with my agent, we figured it out. I rewrote the first chapter in first person and boom, Bel exploded off the page. She just came to life. That was the problem. Third person left her too distant, too removed from the reader. When we had her own voice narrative the story, when we as readers, were privy to her thoughts, the whole story took off. Rewriting it should have been a pain but actually it was a joy, because everything just finally seemed to click into place. It sold so quickly after that.
Resilience isn’t always about forging ahead, battering down obstacles. Sometimes it’s about waiting, or about taking a step back and looking at something from a different angle. We all love the things we write. Why else would we write them? It’s tempting to look at a finished piece of work and say well that’s it then. It’s done and no one wants it.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes a story must wait for the right time. Sometimes just by looking at something in a different light we see a whole new story which has just been waiting in the wings.
(c) Jessica Thorne
About The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall:
September, 1939. The moon shines silver on the looming yew trees. Thinking of her fiancé, fighting for his life and country in the war, breaks Eleanor’s heart, but also gives her courage. She takes a deep breath, picks up her camera, and follows the dancing lights into the maze.
Present day. With her little brother Missing in Action, gardener Megan Taylor runs from her grief to take a job at Foxfield Hall – a centuries-old place full of myths and folklore – restoring the wild maze in the overgrown gardens. Throwing herself into shaping the tangled ivy, Megan soon becomes drawn into the mystery of Lady Eleanor Fairfax, the Hall’s most famous resident… the villagers say she disappeared without trace at the Harvest Festival in 1939, leaving behind a grieving father and a heartbroken fiancé.
Leafing through delicate old newspaper cuttings and gazing at an ornately framed portrait of the missing woman, Megan is full of questions. Although no body was ever found, could Eleanor have been murdered? Did she run away, unwilling to marry the man who loved her? Or, with her father working at the War Office, did Eleanor stumble upon a secret she shouldn’t have?
Then, one night under a full moon, a mesmerising light inexplicably draws her to the entrance of the maze. Megan is filled with a strange certainty that, if she follows it into the shadows, it will lead to the truth about Eleanor… but could Megan herself be the next occupant of Foxfield Hall to be lost forever?
A spellbinding, magical and addictive tale about the mysterious and ancient legends at the heart of the English countryside, and how to find those who are lost. Perfect for fans of Outlander, Susanna Kearsley and The Binding.
Order your copy online here.