July, Part One: Eat. Pray. Write.

Welcome to July – month of strawberries and wasps, and trying to write on our laptops outside (hello screen glare). This month, we’re mostly hanging around in the USA, obsessively hitting the ‘refresh’ key, celebrating some magic moments, and, oh, yes, writing!

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Hazel

For me, June was about making connections: with readers around the world, with authors I admire, and with long-distance friends and work colleagues.

The month started with ‘La Legende de Grace Darling’ hitting bookshops in France (my first French translation – oo la laa!), while the UK edition of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter hit the overall top 100 Kindle bestsellers (a first for me in the UK!), and was also a #1 bestseller in several historical fiction sub-categories. I will never not be excited to see an orange bestseller flag!

The end of the June saw me pack my dry shampoo, industrial-strength concealer, and Berocca, and head to the USA for the Historical Novel Society conference, held at an enormous hotel/small indoors city in Maryland. There’s a special energy that happens when hundreds of like-minded people get together, and that was certainly the case with hundreds of historical novelists, and fans of historical fiction. I spoke on two panels – one about the ‘new woman’ in the early 20th century, and one about writing historical tragedy – and had the best fun ever at a mass book signing where I signed for a couple of hours while being serenaded by a violinist, and met readers who have followed my writing for years. Heather Webb and I also signed a huge stack of Last Christmas in Paris at the American Library Association conference in Washington D.C. I came home exhausted, and with a stinking head cold (damn you, air conditioning!), but it was all worth it.

The month ended perfectly with a night out with Carmel and Catherine, where we saw Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Anna Carey. I’ve loved Liz Gilbert since reading Eat Pray Love and discovering Big Magic many years ago, so it was a real fan-girl moment to hear her talk. What an amazing woman! Inspiration tank topped up, I’m ready to get back to the words. School holidays and two boys at home means a juggling act until September, but we can do this, right. Right? *anxious face*

Catherine

When I left you last month, I was in T2 at Dublin Airport, about to embark on my second trip to New York in as many months. Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint! I spoke about Rewind to 250 lovely librarians at the LJ Day of Dialog conference, alongside superstar authors Chris Pavone, Karin Slaughter and Riley Sager. Then it was off to the mindboggyingly (is that a word?) big Javits Centre for BookExpo America, where I signed proof copies of Rewind and looked totally not nonchalant at all when I discovered I had my own street signs for Rewind and The Liar’s Girl outside! It was an amazing week – many members of the Blackstone team were staying in the same hotel along with a group of us Blackstone authors, and it was a joy to get to hang out with them and get to know them. Blackstone threw an amazing rooftop party where not even thunder, lightning and a flash flood warning for NYC could dampen our good time. In a real pinch-me moment, we all got to go to see Hamilton on Broadway AND I finally saw the Space Shuttle Enterprise (if the name doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because it was the test vehicle, fun fact) at the USS Intrepid museum. I would’ve floated home if the stack of books I bought at The Strand and the proof copies I’d scored weren’t weighing me down…

Here, Rewind prep has begun in earnest. I had a meeting about publicity plans and, due to those plans, the book is now coming out earlier, on August 22. (It’s still September 3 in the States.) I’m really excited about this one and am looking forward to it being out in the world, but I can’t think too much about it at the minute: I have to deliver the first draft of Book 4 in September, which is 9 weeks away. Problem is, I’m travelling and/or festival-ing for 4 of those and I’ve never been good at writing on the road – but I’m going to have to get good at it. I’m also taking part in a screenwriting programme run by Screen Skills Ireland called First Draft and Beyond, where the goal is to have an outline and the first 30 pages of script for your project by – yes, you’ve guessed it – September.

Wish me luck. Send coffee.

Carmel

June was all about The Refresh readers. What’s that I hear you cry?

The Refresh is an author’s addiction hitting refresh on the Amazon Bestsellers Rankings (ABSR). This is found in the product description of a book and is updated hourly. I try to avoid falling down The Refresh rabbit hole, honestly, I do, but sometimes, when a book is doing well in the ABSR, it’s impossible to avoid!

I was part of a Twitter chat recently where much confusion about how ABSR’s work was in place. So here’s the low down – Amazon assigns the ABSR of a book based on how many sales or downloads it has had over a certain period of time as compared to all other books on the Amazon market. There are four rankings listed for each Book. The overall ranking in Kindle Store which includes all books, all categories, plus rankings in three different sub-categories which should reflect the genre/themes of your book.

Early June A Thousand Roads Home hit the #1 spot in several subcategories receiving an orange bestseller tag. Yay! But then things got really interesting when it made its way up the overall Kindle Chart to the Top 10, where it’s stayed for the past three weeks. This, readers, is the Holy Grail. Getting to #8 (highest I’ve gone so far) means that at that time, only 7 books on Amazon UK were selling better than A Thousand Roads Home. All of the yays! And you guessed it, all of The Refresh!

I continued my edits for Greta Gale in June, with copy edits just landed. They are quite light, as we’ve done so much work in the previous four versions. Hopefully, a title will be decided soon too! This month I start writing Book 9, which has a working title of What If I? I’ve written my plot outline, so now it’s time to get words down on paper. I use Scrivener for first drafts, setting a daily target of 1,500. Only 90,000 words to go …

Oh, on Wednesday I’m off to London for the annual Harper Collins Summer Party in the V&A. It’s always a highlight of my authorly shenanigans. Head to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter @happymrsh for photos and all the goss!

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