To celebrate the release of her new novel, A Nightingale in Winter, a historical romance set in WWI, I’m very happy to welcome Margaret to BetweenTheLines with the remarkable story of how her novel eventually found its way to the publisher.
Over to you, Margaret….
The publication of my novel A Nightingale in Winter by Omnific Publishing on 24 August is proof that it is never too late, and that it’s a good idea to keep everything you write.
I finished writing A Nightingale in Winter in the late 1990s – it had taken me two years to complete, fitting it around a busy a full-time job as a student adviser in a Nottingham Further Education College. My evenings followed the same routine – I would come in, get changed and have a cat nap. After that, I would prepare a meal and supercharge myself with a large cup of coffee and a glass of wine. Then I would write for around two hours. A Nightingale in Winter is the story of a volunteer nurse during the First World War, so naturally I needed to do some research too, and I used my holidays from work to do this, visiting the Imperial War Museum to read original diaries and letters. In short, I invested a huge amount of effort, time and faith in Nightingale.
When it was finally finished, I got feedback from two friends and their responses caused me to make some big changes. I ended up with two fairly different versions of the book, and believing my rewrite had improved it, I sent version 2 off to a publisher. It was rejected quite quickly, and, since my life had changed quite dramatically by then, I put Nightingale away in the attic. I’m not sure if I was distracted (by a new love, a relocation and a new job), or if I’d lost heart with it. Maybe it was a combination of them both.
Anyway, the relationship didn’t work out, and I moved again. In all, Nightingale lived in three different attics until, 16 years after I finished it, last year’s hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War reminded me of it, and then I duly got both versions 1 and 2 down from the attic, dusted them off and had a thorough read. And I was surprised and delighted to find that liked quite a lot of things about it. Maybe it had legs after all?
Wanting to be sure, I sent it out to 3 friends whose opinions I trusted for feedback. And here’s where fate or chance really lent a helping hand, because I thought I’d sent them version 2, but had, by mistake, sent them version 1. And they all really liked it! I had another good read of both versions, and could see they were right. Version 1 was better – in the rewrite, the characters acted out of character, and it was harsher and less believable. But there were some good extra scenes in it which showed the development of the love relationship and my character Eleanor’s growing fascination with a career in medicine. Yes, I could definitely use all of that. So I set to work rewriting and editing, combining elements of both versions. Then, encouraged by a friend’s success at finding a home for her novel with Omnific Publishing and drawn by their tagline, “Romance Without Rules”, I submitted the manuscript to them. Three months later, it was accepted. I was so thrilled, and I still am. It’s just so great to feel that all those years of hard work aren’t going to go to waste, and that others are going to read the words I dedicated so much of my life to writing!
How about you? Have you gone back to something you wrote a long time ago and managed to turn it into a success?
About A Nightingale in Winter
It is 1916, and The Great War is raging throughout Europe. Eleanor Martin is traveling to France to serve as a volunteer nurse. She only wants to bury herself in her work on the Front and forget her traumatic past. But when her ship is torpedoed, Eleanor has to act quickly to save an American journalist’s life. As she cradles Dirk Loreson’s broken body in her arms, speaking to him to keep him conscious, the possibility of a whole different future begins to open up for her.
Leo Cartwright, an ambitious artist, is also en route to the Front. A ruthless man who will stop at nothing to find inspiration for his paintings, Leo’s path is destined to cross with Eleanor’s. As she comes under his spell, will she find the strength to resist his demands? Will she trust her growing love for Dirk?
A Nightingale in Winter is about courage and searing ambition at a time when the very foundations of the world have been shaken.
Margaret’s novel The Goddess Workshop is a roller-coaster comedy about a mismatched group of women with a common aim – becoming confident, sensual beings. Her second women’s fiction novel, The Dare Club is about a group of people who meet on a Divorced and Separated course. They decide to challenge each other to do daring things as part of their discovery process. But is saying how you really feel the most daring thing of all?
Margaret’s readers for people learning to speak English are published by Cambridge English Readers, Cambridge Discovery Readers and Cengage Learning. They are in lots of different genres including Fantasy, Romance, Human Interest, Thriller, Fact Book and Adapted Short Stories.
As well as fiction, Margaret has written plays and screen plays. Her comedy GODDESS was performed at Cambridge Drama Centre to rave reviews.
Margaret has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.