I am so thrilled to feature in today’s The Gloss Magazine interviewed by the wonderful Sophie Grenham. I’m talking jogging (aka fast walking), what it’s like to have to abandon a book because another author’s already written it, and what the defining moment was that made me pick up my pen and write The Maid’s Room.
Sophie says: ‘Fiona’s refreshing and respectful prose gives voice to a nation of people that are often seen and not heard, and shines a light on a system that should have been challenged long ago. In preparation for her novel, she interviewed many women working as maids, who opened up to her about their treatment.’
Click here to read the rest of the interview.
The lighter, smaller, cheaper (hooray!) version of The Maid’s Room arrives on shelves tomorrow, its cover decorated with quotes from magazines including Heat, Prima and Red. I can’t wait to spot it in a bookshop, and if you do, I’d love to see some pictures via Instagram or Twitter.
Meanwhile, The Maid’s Room has been chosen as a BookEnds pick of the month for April.
A big thank you to the bloggers who’ve reviewed it so far, and all the lovely readers who invested in the hardback and gave it a big thumbs-up on Goodreads.
There’s still time to enter my giveaway on Twitter. My daughter will pick a name out of a hat tomorrow evening, then I’ll pop a free signed copy into the post to the winner.
One more sleep!
When my debut novel, The Maid’s Room, was published last week, I had a launch party at Waterstones, Richmond. On the way there, my mouth went a bit dry as I wondered what on earth I was doing. There were going to be 60 people there, and I had to do a speech – a prospect I wasn’t relishing.
But as soon as I climbed the stairs to the cafe area in Waterstones, a curious calm took over. My books were piled everywhere. There were posters of my gorgeous cover, and all the tables were decorated with yellow roses.
Then the guests started to arrive – my agent Rowan and other agents from Furniss Lawton, my parents, and lots of my friends. Even my former editor, affectionately known as ‘the best boss ever’ had schlepped all the way from West Sussex. Other people had made long journeys too – and I was so happy that they had.
I mingled, gushed a lot, and smiled the kind of genuine smile that doesn’t give you face-ache.
Thorne Ryan from Hodder & Stoughton did a great speech and talked about some of the plaudits The Maid’s Room has already won from magazines such as Grazia and Red. She even mentioned the ‘genuinely excellent’ that Heat magazine said of the book last week.
Then it was time for my speech. I actually enjoyed standing there thanking all the people who have got me to this place, including my husband who has weathered the seemingly endless disappointments along the way.
I read a short excerpt from my book, signed lots of books and had an all-round brilliant time. Afterwards some of us headed to a nearby pub, and ouch – yes, I did need the paracetamols the next morning.
Thank you to everyone who came to my book launch – I enjoyed every second of it.
Fancy sneaking a peek at my debut novel The Maid’s Room? Bookends has selected it as one of its books of the month – the first chapter is available to read here.
I’m thrilled to bits that The Maid’s Room has been chosen as one of the best books to read in November by Red Online. I’m especially pleased because the feature also lists my debut novel alongside books that I’m desperate to read.
Red describes The Maid’s Room as ‘. . .fascinating, thought-provoking and sometimes heartbreaking. . .’
Publication day for The Maid’s Room is only ten days away now, so I’m on countdown, and super excited.
It’s been a day to remember. The postman brought me my very first finished copy of my debut novel The Maid’s Room which will be published in hardback in just four weeks time.
I’m absolutely delighted with the beautiful cover, the font, the bit that says copyright Fiona Mitchell.
Watching my daughter’s reaction as she opened the book and realised I’d dedicated it to her was an absolute gift. I dedicated it to my husband too, mentioning all that I’d gone “through” to get the book published. ‘Oh God, you’ve spelt “through” wrong,’ he said. ‘What?’ I replied, horrified until the smile stretched across his face.
My first and only copy so far of my lovely book is now sitting on the windowsill with a bottle of Mr Sheen beside it.
But I am super happy. Excited. Feeling lucky. Holding my book is like holding almost seven years worth of hard work and determination in my hands. I’ve worked hard at many things in my life – pregnancy wasn’t a doddle for me, parking has all but defeated me. I pounded the pavements as a rookie reporter before enjoying years as a features writer. But this, this feels like the thing I’ve worked hardest at.
For all those writers plugging away at your keyboards, please know, it didn’t just happen for me. There were so many moments when I thought all hope was gone, but I got there in the end.
Today I gave a talk to writers in Singapore via FaceTime and surprisingly, for someone who claims not to like public speaking all that much, I enjoyed it.
Hooking up via a wonky Skype connection, then reverting to FaceTime, there were about fourteen writers in the room making notes while I talked about the long route from starting my very first novel to landing a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Publication of The Maid’s Room is now only six weeks away and I can’t wait.
Hopefully I managed to relay some tips that the writers will find useful. The word ‘perseverance’ was uttered more than once.
I took me three years, three months and 29 days from receiving my first agent rejection letter to getting representation from my lovely agent Rowan Lawton. During that time I became an expert in rejection, so a large part of my talk was dedicated to surviving the submissions process.
My top survival tips include:
- Logging onto Paul McVeigh’s brilliant website to keep you going. There were so many times I snivelled over my keyboard as I read one of the author interviews featured to make myself feel just that little bit better about everything.
- Entering writing competitions. Being shortlisted in the Bristol Short Story Prize for the very first time buoyed me up. Some of the judges and authors who read my story liked my work and encouraged me to keep writing.
- Watching TED Talks. On the days I felt particularly low, I’d watched a Ted Talk. There’s so much to inspire you here, from writers talking about books, to people who’ve overcome enormous obstacles to achieve their personal bests.
- Using the anger. I did quite a bit of ranting about rejection, but then somehow I managed to turn that emotion into energy. Try it – you might just end up writing your soul onto the page.
Preparing this talk was a real eye-opener for me. It took quite a few hours to plan what I wanted to say, so a big shout-out to inspirational teachers everywhere. I had no idea teaching involved so much hard graft.
But the biggest revelation for me was just how much I loved doing a spot of public speaking – hopefully I’ll remember that in future.
Huge thank you to author Alice Clark-Platts for inviting me to speak, and the Singapore Writers’ Group, thanks for listening.
I love checking out the covers of new hardbacks; so often they’re works of art.
When I visited Hatchards in London yesterday, the cover of recently published Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester really stood out. The cover of the American edition of The Girls by Emma Cline is also a favourite – pop-arty and so eye-catching.
I’m drawn to covers that are bold, bright and colourful, but I didn’t have a clue what the cover of The Maid’s Room should be like.
When I was still submitting a version of the book to literary agents and feeling a bit glum, my daughter, nine at the time, got busy with her felt-tips and drew the picture below to cheer me up. I’ve still got it pinned over my desk.
I collected a whole bunch of photographs to help inspire me while writing my book – pictures of smudged make-up, wedged shoes and a small dog called Malcolm among them. But none of those images were right for the cover.
So when my editor at Hodder & Stoughton, Kate Howard, showed me the cover of The Maid’s Room on Friday, I felt like I’d been given a beautiful gift. It has all the elements of the covers I most admire. What a massive honour it is to have this stunning design wrapped around my words.