I’m thrilled to welcome Alice Castle today with a Guest post about how she made her dreams come true.
The first encouraging words I ever got from a teacher were about my writing. I’m not sure if that started off my love affair with words, but that morsel of praise made me believe, from the age of about four or five, that writing was something I could do. I started writing articles for newspapers while I was at university and, after a false start writing political speeches (and discovering I can’t bear politics) I landed a job on the Daily Express. It was a tough environment and I always felt that I was one step away from being unmasked as a fraud but I was being paid to write, even if it was supposed to be fact rather than fiction. In the evenings and weekends, I worked on stories and when I went on maternity leave, I submitted a novel to Mills & Boon… and got turned down, albeit with an encouraging letter.
It wasn’t until I moved to Brussels with two very small children that I decided to have another go at writing a novel, in snatched moments between my babies’ naps. The result, years later, was my chicklit novel Hot Chocolate, which ended up being published initially in German, which I can’t read or write. By this stage, I’d been through two agents and got rejections from most UK publishers – and my children were almost out of primary school!
When I returned to the UK I decided to give writing another go, even though I now knew all too well it was no easy matter to get into print. I put Hot Chocolate out in English on Kindle, and it got lovely reviews, but I wasn’t inspired to write more chicklit. I’d always loved whodunits, they are my go-to genre for a relaxing read, and I’d read every Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and D L Sayers novel ever published. I also watch endless detective dramas on TV, whether set in Happy Valley or in Sweden, as long as there’s a body and a suspect or two, I’m glued. In a way, I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me sooner that this was my natural milieu as a writer. But, once the penny finally dropped, I discovered I loved writing murder mysteries. There’s something very satisfying about creating a puzzle for your reader, and the constraints of the plot help to structure the novel, yet still allow your characters a lot of room to breathe.
I wanted Death in Dulwich to have the flavour of an old-fashioned cosy crime novel, but with a contemporary heroine facing the real pressures women deal with today. So, although the book is set in London, it’s based in a plush suburb which has a village feel to it – a St Mary Mead for the 21st century. It deals with some very dark issues, but I hope it has a light touch. I’m very thrilled with one early review, calling it as a ‘modern day twist on a young Miss Marple,’ while on Amazon it’s been described as a ‘keenly observed page turner.’
I finished Death in Dulwich last autumn and girded my loins for the lengthy submission process. I was braced for rejection, taking comfort in all the usual tales of famous authors who’ve been turned down by people who should know better, when I got an email from Crooked Cat. I’d made the cardinal mistake of not attaching my first three chapters with all the other bits and bobs required. I sent them off, hoping against hope that Crooked Cat wouldn’t decide I was too inefficient to bother with – and the next day got the dream email saying they’d like to publish.
Knowing that someone else thinks your book is publishable is really delicious. Seeing your words printed, with your name on the cover you helped to design, is pretty special too. But best of all is knowing that I have a home, now, for the sequel to my novel, and for the rest of the series, too. That’s really a dream come true.
You can find Alice Castle at her website, http://www.dulwichdivorcee.com,
On Twitter at @DDsDiary
On her Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/
Thirty-something single mum Beth Haldane has her hands full, with a bouncy young son, haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and bills to pay. She loves her little home in plush London suburb Dulwich, but life here doesn’t come cheap.
She is thrilled to land the post of archivist at top local school Wyatt’s – though she secretly fears she’s not up to the job. But even Beth couldn’t have imagined how badly things could go, until she discovers a hideous crime and finds herself prime suspect.
Setting out to clear her name, Beth encounters a cast of characters who will follow her through the London Murder Mystery series, proving along the way that the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places.
Meet the author…
Alice Castle was a national newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph before becoming a novelist. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, was a European best-seller which sold out in two weeks.
Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in Dulwich, The Girl in the Gallery. The second instalment in the London Murder Mystery series, it will be published by Crooked Cat next year.
Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary at http://www.dulwichdivorcee.com.
She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.