In the third interview in our series, Vivien Hampshire talks to author Jules Wake about her path to publication
Jules Wake writes fun contemporary romance. She lives in Tring with two teenagers and a husband, along with a fine collection of dust bunnies. Writing is her displacement activity when she needs to resist the urge to do housework. She is an avid reader and would really rather read a book than anything else – except perhaps watch Strictly Come Dancing, come Saturday nights in September. Unfortunately she also has a day job as a School Business Manager, which she is quite passionate about, but luckily the holidays leave her plenty of time to read (ahem … write).
Jules had put five different novels through the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme process before she found success. Her first published novel, Talk to Me, is described by The Bookseller as ‘a warm-hearted debut’ and is receiving plenty of enthusiastic 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Jules, when did you first realise that you wanted to write?
I always enjoyed writing as a child and studied English at university. I went to UEA, one of the first homes of creative writing degree courses, and I think the concept of writing was so important on the campus that the idea that I might one day try it became embedded in my sub-conscious. I then went into PR which involved a lot of copy writing, newsletters, press releases and features, so writing itself was second nature, although writing a book is very different. Before the days of the kindle, I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t find anything new to read, so I decided to write the sort of things I like reading.
What is your New Writers’ Scheme story?
I strapped on my walking boots when I joined the NWS! Talk to Me was the first manuscript I submitted, way back in 2008, and I was thrilled to get good feedback. In fact, that was in the days of the second read, so I received two really fabulous reports. I thought I was made. Little did I know! I started submitting to agents immediately, and the rejections flooded in.
Having had such a positive response for the first book, I re-joined the NWS and duly sent off my second book. That too got a good report and I submitted to agents and got another ton of rejections, so I wrote a third. More rejections, so I wrote a fourth. The fourth one got great feedback from the NWS and this time, when I submitted it to agents, two actually asked for the full manuscript. That was so exciting. Unfortunately, in the end, both said it wasn’t for them.
I then got on and wrote book five, but at around the same time I had decided to submit the first book, Talk to Me, to Choc Lit. I was invited to meet with the publisher in January 2013 – just after I’d signed up for the NWS for the sixth year.
So, how did you find your publisher?
As an RNA NWS member, I made the most of going to events and networking. I was a bit shy about it at first but Twitter really helped. I met lots of RNA people online before I met them in the flesh, but that made it much easier to go to events. As a result, I met Sue Moorcroft a couple of times and read her books, which I loved. She was published by Choc Lit, who were quite new then. I heard that they were accepting un-agented submissions but was disappointed to find that they only accepted work which included the male point of view. At that time I wrote in the first person and didn’t think I could write from the male POV. However, I decided to give it a try and rewrote the first three chapters specifically for Choc Lit, and they came back and asked to see the whole manuscript!
I quickly had to rewrite the whole 87000 words, but I managed to encompass everything I had learned and probably submitted a better book than the original. Talk to Me was accepted and subsequently published by Choc Lit as an ebook in May 2014, and in paperback a month later. The first draft had taken me a year to write and I remember the sense of achievement when I typed The End, but actually that was only about a quarter of the work involved. It took me nearly six years from starting the first draft to holding the paperback in my hand.
Do you have an agent?
Although I now had a contract with Choc Lit, my NWS reader suggested I try to get an agent for book five, so I sent it out to three agents in August 2013. One came back and asked to read the full ms but then declined it, and the other two I didn’t hear from at all. I was about to give up on it when a fellow writing buddy from the NWS insisted I give agents one more crack, so I picked five more and sent the ms off to them on a Thursday. On the Monday I received a call from an agent at a big London literary agency asking if I’d received her email on Friday? Would you believe it, one of the most important emails of my writing career had gone into my spam folder! She loved the first three chapters and wanted to read the full ms on an exclusive basis. No sooner had I agreed to that, one of the three original agents came back and asked for the full too. That left me in a dilemma as I didn’t want to tell her it was already with someone else on an exclusive basis. Being a coward, I decided that as Agent B had taken so long to get back to me, it would be all right to conveniently overlook her email for a few days, while I waited for Agent A’s response.
Fortuitously, it was the RNA summer party that week and both agents were there. I introduced myself to Agent A and we had a great chat. Then I spotted Agent B and felt I really ought to go over and talk to her and explain the situation. She was really cool with it and to my surprise was happy to wait. We got on famously and I knew then that I could work with her.
Agent A came back and asked for lots of changes before she would make a decision. I agreed with the changes, but still sent off the ms to Agent B. I’ll never forget I got a call the following Friday lunchtime from Agent B. She was only halfway through the book but loving it, and offered me representation. We’d got on so well at the party, and I really felt she ‘got’ me, so I accepted.
Now you have the first book ‘under your belt’, what’s next in your writing life?
There are still no guarantees. I had to forego future contracts with my current publisher because they prefer to option all future romantic novels, in favour of taking on the agent. She may not be able to sell this novel, but it was a risk I was prepared to take. I’m now writing book number six.
If you could give just one tip to aspiring romantic novelists, what would it be?
When finishing the first draft of a book, too many writers make the mistake of thinking ‘there you go, that’s the work done’, and start submitting. My favourite analogy to reflect the route to publication is to ask: Would you enter the Olympics having run just one marathon? So, my best advice to anyone who is serious about getting published is to just keep writing, keep learning and keep improving your craft.
Thank you, Jules, for talking to us on the blog today, and we wish you every success in the future.
About the book:
Olivia has been in love with Daniel forever but, despite her best efforts, they’ve never been able to get it together. Their relationship has always been a series of mixed messages and misunderstandings and the final straw comes when Daniel mysteriously starts dating her flatmate, Emily. Hurt and confused, Olivia resolves to forget her heartache with a spot of speed dating. After all, what could possibly go wrong? One crazy stalker later and Olivia’s life is becoming increasingly strange and scary. Can she rely on Daniel to step in when events take a terrifying turn or will their communication breakdown ultimately result in tragedy?
Talk to Me is available in book shops, and on Amazon where it is currently priced at £6.19 paperback / £2.48 kindle ebook edition
To find out more about Jules and her books, you can visit her website and blog: