The Write Romantics will be starting a weekly Monday interview with a series of writers from those still at the ‘new writer’ phase, to recent graduates into the world of publishing (both traditional and self-published) and alumni of the New Writer’s Scheme now firmly established as readers’ favourites.
Our very first interviewee, Kerry Fisher, is a member of the New Writers Scheme who has self-published her first novel, The Class Ceiling, and has recently been signed by a literary agent to represent her second novel. Kerry is a journalist and women’s fiction writer, living in the South East of England with her husband, two children and the family’s naughty black dog.
Hi Kerry, welcome to the Write Romantics Blog and thanks so much for taking the time to be our very first interviewee!
We know that, like us, you are a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
Hello there. Thank you so much for having me. I have been a member of the NWS on and off for about six years – forgot to renew on the first available day one year and the places were snaffled up immediately! I write women’s commercial fiction. My aim is to create honest, funny stories about ordinary women. I try not to shy away from emotions that most of us don’t want to admit exist – envy of other people’s wealth, being jealous of your best friend, disliking your child. Pre-novel writing days, I was a journalist and part of my job was to review books. The more I read, the more I felt inspired to have a go myself, though I was utterly deluded about how easy it would be. Fellow RNA member, Sophie King, told me about the NWS and it’s been invaluable.
We know that we are in danger of sounding a bit like reality show contestants, but we Write Romantics see the road to publication, by whatever route, as a journey. Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far and what is next for you?
If I go right back to the beginning, my journey involved about a decade of procrastination thinking about writing a novel, a few more years talking about writing it, plus a good chunk of time being defensive about not having achieved it. Then finally, to a collective hurrah from all who know me, a year to write the first book, followed by a hideously long time mumbling, ‘No, not published yet’ into my wine glass.
In a nutshell, I took lots of online courses with the University of California – they have a great writers’ programme – before I produced anything that wouldn’t have had agents dispatching me to their ‘spam’ folders. My first novel won’t ever see the light of day owing to the general style of ‘And then she cleaned her teeth and then she walked to the door and then she did many other things in a very boring manner, even if she did live in Italy’ – but I self-published my second, The Class Ceiling, just before Christmas. I think my husband mentioning Einstein’s theory that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ finally clinched it.
Immediately after that, I got an agent for my third novel, (awaiting awesome, flying-off-the-shelves title). The two weren’t related, which, in my mind, just goes to prove that if you give the universe a shove, it sometimes shifts in your favour.
Congratulations on being signed by an agent! That really is the holy-grail for us aspiring writers and seems to be even more difficult that getting a publisher. Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing an agent?
I feel embarrassed about giving advice to anyone as I blundered about so much myself but one thing I would say – and I find this very hard – is network as much as you can. Apart from the obvious benefits that you never know who you might bump into, getting to know agents and authors takes away ‘the fear’. The first time I had to do a formal pitch to an agent at a writing festival I shook, gabbled, fell apart and that was before he’d told me that no one was interested in reading about class and why on earth was I still banging on about something that everyone lost interest in last century?
If you do meet lots of authors and agents – at the RNA parties, writing festivals, workshops, even on Twitter – then when you are put on that hideous ‘What are you writing?’ spot, you might still sweat and stutter, but at least it’ll be a rehearsed stutter that might have enough coherence to elicit a ‘send me the first three chapters’. I met my agent at the RNA winter party last year and did just that.
On my goodness, that first agent you pitched too sounds scary and exactly why networking is as hard as it is, but we do know we’ve got to try… What’s next for you now that you have an agent, Kerry?
I’ve got everything crossed that my agent manages to sell the latest novel but one of the knock-on effects of self-publishing is that you simply have to get yourself out there and market, so I envisage a huge learning curve in marketing, social media know-how and squirming in the corner when anyone tells me that they are actually reading the damn thing.
What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?
As I sit down to plot my next novel, I am genuinely astonished that I’ve ever managed to write a book. My immediate dream is of not sitting here like a constipated cow, paralysed by the thought that if I do get traditionally published, I’ll be writing to a deadline when all those ‘Have you finished your book yet?’ comments will suddenly take on a new meaning.
Along with ten million other writers, my long-term dream is that The Class Ceiling is made it to a film. It’s about a cleaner who receives an inheritance to pay for a private education for her children and the shocking school gate snobbery she faces. All the time I was writing it, I was imagining Penelope Cruz (my Basque cleaner) and Gerard Butler (the cleaner’s love interest) in my head.
We love that! After all, J K Rowling based many of her characters from Harry Potter on the people she wanted to play them if it ever got made into a film, or so we’ve read. What has been the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
I’m going to choose two benefits of joining the NWS. The first one was that the manuscript feedback helped so much. I had a fantastic reader for The Class Ceiling – I received such an encouraging, detailed report that it made me believe that I could – with a lot of hard graft – get published. Secondly, I’ve met so many generous-spirited people through the RNA who have all done their bit to help me on my way – Adrienne Dines, Allie Spencer, Claire Dyer, Giselle Green…
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
Let’s call this section ‘Things I wish I’d known before faffing about for twenty years…’
- Learn how to write. Take classes, go to workshops, attend writing festivals, read books on writing, read novels.
- Get a manuscript review and be prepared to ‘hear’ your feedback. Don’t assume that anyone who reads your masterpiece and doesn’t shout ‘Brilliant! Why haven’t you found an agent?’ is an utter donkey. Throw yourself on the sofa, shout on the hills but go back to the critique and see if there are some valid points.
- Stop hiding behind pillars at networking events. You don’t have to rush up to agents with a book pitch (in fact, don’t do that…) but you can tell them that you enjoyed a book by someone they represent.
- Be generous with your contacts and praise. Put people in touch with other people. Authors with helpful agents you’ve met, agents with people who run writing festivals, book reviewers with great writers, let Twitter know about brilliant blogs, novels, authors. I can’t say specifically that it’s led anywhere but I do believe that good writing karma goes around.
Thank you so much for having me. Click here to read some sample pages of The Class Ceiling, or here to join me on my blog, which is a mix of writing news and embarrassing my husband and children family observations. If you have any more questions, please hop over to my Facebook page or find me on Twitter. Best of writing luck to you.
Thank you Kerry, what an inspirational interview. We do hope you will come back and see us again soon and give us an update when your agent has sold your current WIP for a ludicrously high bid!