Many years ago I met an Indian palmist, who knew nothing about me. After he scrutinised my palm, he announced that I had an exceptional interest in literature. Then he predicted that, one day, I would be published. He was right about ‘my exceptional interest in literature’ and, for several decades, apart from publication of my historical fiction, everything else the gentleman forecast came true.
At nursery school I made up stories. I described visiting a foreign country, convincing a woman I had visited it. ‘But Rosemary’s never been there,’ my astonished mother said when the woman mentioned it. At primary and secondary school history and geography fascinated me and I loved reading tales about times past. I wept buckets over The Wide Wide World and lapped up Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and all the sequels.
Later I read Geofrey Trease and Jeffrey Farnol before graduating to classical authors such as Sir Walter Scot, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Dickens. Amongst many other authors I discovered Margaret Mitchell, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Goudge, Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt. I also enjoyed historical non-fiction.
In fact, since an early age my imaginary world was peopled with the Knights of the Round Table, 1066 and all that, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the world of courtly love, Tudor ladies dashing Cavaliers Regency gentlemen etc. Sometimes my fictional world seemed more real than my middle class life in which, without the slightest consideration of creature comforts, I yearned what I perceived as the romance of the past.
In my early twenties, while I lived in Kenya, two of my novels were accepted by prestigious publishing houses. Unfortunately, a date for publication was not included in either contract and the publishers reneged. Disillusioned while meeting the demands of my growing family I rarely wrote, but my ambition to become a published historical novelist never left me.
Years later, after leaving Kenya with our children, and living in an ashram with them, before I returned to England, my late husband encouraged me to write. Rejection after rejection of my novels followed, so I participated in writing courses and went on writers’ holidays. I joined a writers’ group that met once a week. When it closed, I joined another one and read books on How to Write. I also joined the Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelist’s New Writers’ Scheme to which I submitted a novel a year for a reader’s report. The feed back helped me to improve my submission and my writing skills.
In 2007 I was over the moon when a Canadian Press accepted my novel Tangled Hearts. Unfortunately the publisher went out of business. Nevertheless, I was still determined to succeed in spite of the set back.
In the United Kingdom many factors have had an adverse effect on authors and the publishing industry. Amongst them are the abolition of the publishers’ agreed retail price, the closure of small publishers or their amalgamation with larger publishers and the closure of independent bookshops. Another nail in the proverbial coffin was banged in when Borders closed. There are no longer any small bookshops in the town in which I live, and only two large bookshops, Waterstones and W.H.Smith. To make matters worse, charity shops that sell huge quantities of second hand books cut into author’s royalties. I have friends who used to earn enough to put jam on their bread and butter. They are now lucky to have margarine on their bread. To add to the gloom, supermarkets sell an ever increasing range of books as though they are commodities like bread and sugar.
Confronted with the various situations a new writer must face, I drew on my determination to succeed. Several agents liked my novels and offered good advice. I secured a prestigious literary agent but my novel did not find a publisher.
Eventually, I realised a ray of sunshine is the increasing popularity of electronically published books which can be read on Kindle and other devices. The sales are growing and there are a number of reputable on line publishers so I am delighted to have three new releases from MuseItUp which will be published this year.