Sue Shepherd’s Publication Journey
Sue Shepherd’s Publication Journey
Welcome to Sue Shepherd’s Publication Journey, another in the occasional series of guest posts by authors who reveal their journey to getting published. Sue’s new crime novel Cousin Ash is published today and I’m looking forward to reading my copy tonight.
Over to Sue Shepherd:
Whenever I’m asked to recount my publication journey, it always makes me smile. I guess there’s a certain element of serendipity to everyone’s story, and mine is no exception.
I’ll start by saying that I’ve always liked to make up stories. My earliest memory of ‘writing’ was sitting at my parents’ dining table typing short stories on a very old typewriter. However, I was a bit of a daydreamer at school and far from academic. I had no idea how to structure a story or what the rules of punctuation were. I think the grammar pedant that I have become would cringe a thousand times at the composition of those early stories. Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing where my imagination could take me.
In my twenties, I continued to make up stories in my head, and occasionally jotted them down. Then, in my thirties, when my sons were tiny, I acted out stories for them with their toys.
Finally, as a mature woman in my forties, with two young sons, I decided to explore story telling in written form on a more solid basis. I signed up for creative writing classes with a lady who lived a few miles away. She has since become a Sunday Times Bestselling Author, so I think it’s fair to say that I learned from the best.
Attending those classes in her home was a huge turning point for me. When you have young children, your life does tend to revolve around them to a fair extent, and I had lost myself a bit. More prominently, I had lost sight of my adventurous spirit. Those classes were amazing. One evening a week I was just me, Sue Shepherd, doing something that I loved.
The beginning of every class was taken up with about ten minutes of flash fiction. We sat around her large oak table with the smell of lavender floating in through the window, and we wrote. We wrote whatever came into our heads, and then we shared. One week, I was running late, the teacher lived in a village which I had to drive through many country lanes to access. I didn’t want to miss a second of the class and I have to say I think I probably rushed to get there. Up and down lanes that were pitch black and twisty. As I arrived at her house, I was thankful to whatever/whoever had kept me safe during my hairy journey. All be it the cosmos, the universe, or my own personal guardian angel. I sat to write my flash fiction and a character appeared to me – the poor unfortunate angel who had been tasked with keeping me safe. I wrote a short piece about how she collected her assignment for the day, realised it was me, and grumbled to her other guardian angel mates about how bloody difficult Sue Shepherd was to watch over. I read it to the group, and they laughed. The teacher said, I think you’ve really got something there. You should try to elaborate on the story.
Let me pause there whilst we all sit and twiddle our thumbs for a while, because we actually need to wait for seven years to pass before we can continue with the story. Yes, seven years later I finished my first novel. A romcom (with a twist) with a working title of – The people below. It was about three people whose lives appear to be unconnected, until you dig a little further. The reader discovers that not only are their lives very much intwined, but they are also all being watched over by a group of angels. Some angel characters are a tad inept!
I messaged the author who had been my teacher and asked her, what do I do now? I had no idea where to send it or who to approach. She suggested a friend of hers who ran Corazon books, named Ian. I emailed my story to him and waited for the obvious reply – you can’t write for toffee, why did you send this to me? Thank goodness, Ian is in fact a lovely man and would never have said that anyway. What he did say was that I had a distinct ‘voice’ and he felt that with a little work my draft could become a great book.
Together we worked on the story for a year. He is a fabulous editor and came to know Steph, Mike, and Penny (the three main characters) as well as I did. After a name change – Doesn’t everyone have a secret? was published. I’m going to boast just a little now, because I will always be immensely proud and amazed at the following fact – it went on to be a best seller. Reaching number seven in the UK overall kindle chart, and topping the romantic comedy, contemporary romance, and humour categories in the UK. It was also number one in humour all the way over in Australia.
I then wrote two more standalone romcom novels for Ian and Corazon books. Both of which did well and gained many 4 & 5 star reviews. But neither quite reached the dizzy heights of the Top Ten Kindle Chart. I think it was just a case of right time, right place for dear old Doesn’t everyone have a secret?
The fourth book I decided to write was a little different. I had come to realise that, for me, one of the greatest parts about writing a book is deciding when you as the storyteller are going to let the reader in on the secrets your characters have been keeping. The twists and turns. The foreshadowing. The red herrings. So, I decided to write a suspense story. Obviously, I still included humour, that’s just how I write, but I focused a bit more on the whodunnit side of things. I knew it would not be published by Corazon, because Ian didn’t publish suspense or crime. But he wished me well with my venture and I will always be grateful to him for how much he taught me about editing and story composition.
Eventually, after numerous revisions, a few name changes and lots of submissions, I happened upon my latest publishers. I don’t wish to sound too gushy at this point, but I have to say I have been incredibly lucky with my publishers. Hobeck Books, Rebecca and Adrian, are every bit as lovely as Ian from Corazon. Just as he did, they absolutely know my characters as well as I do. They are full of praise for my writing and also happy to discuss every part of the publishing process with me. Initially, I sent them Swindled as a standalone book. But it swiftly became clear to both of them, and me, that it was crying out to be a series, hence book 2 came to be. Cousin Ash will be published on 30th August, and I am excited to see my new series taking shape. I’m currently working on book three in the series.
My advice to anyone who fancies writing a book and trying to get published is – go for it! But don’t expect that when you type ‘The End’ you are actually at the end. Listen to editors and publishers, and people who are trying to help you. You may be good at story telling but never underestimate the difference a good editor can make to a manuscript.
I absolutely love all my book babies, but there will always be a special place in my heart for Doesn’t everyone have a secret? Which may never have even existed had I not been late for that creative writing class many years ago.
About the author
Sue Shepherd began her writing career in 2015, writing contemporary romance. Over the next couple of years, she created three novels with heart, laughs and naughtiness. Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?, Love Them and Leave Them and Can’t Get You Out of My Head.
Realising that one of the parts she enjoyed most about writing was deciding when to let the reader in on the secrets from her characters’ past, Sue switched genres and wrote a suspense novel entitled Swindled, which was published by Hobeck Books in 2021. Too fond of the main characters in Swindled to let them go, Sue decided to write her fifth novel, another suspense staring the accidental private investigative duo. Entitled Cousin Ash, this is now book two in the series and it will be published on August 30th.
Sue lives on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons, a standard poodle named Forrest and a Cavachon called Sky. Her passions in life are; her family, writing, the seaside and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you’ll give her the heebie-jeebies and she’d prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!
About Cousin Ash
‘RUN FOR IT!’
Were they also Ash’s last words?
A chance meeting with a school friend of Lottie’s brings Hannah a new case. She’s confident Sandlin Private Investigations can find out who’s responsible for the recent threats at Eliza’s house. But, as she and Lottie begin to unravel the facts of the present case, they also find themselves involved in a longstanding mystery.
Three cousins, once as close as siblings.
Ash, the black sheep
Grieving Ash loved her dad deeply, but swore no one else understood her. She’s been missing for twelve years, and is now presumed dead.
Eliza, the peacemaker
Eliza, rebuilding her life after heartbreak, inherits everything.
Scott the ‘baby’
Scott, broken and bitter, inherits nothing.
What made Auntie Miriam so angry that she left nothing in her will to Scott? And why did Scott and Eliza make a pact all those years ago never to admit the truth about the disappearance of their cousin Ash?
Ash may be presumed dead, but somehow, she’s still causing trouble. Ultimately, the case can’t be solved without answering the question – what really happened the last time the three cousins were all together in Lullaby Woods?
Cousin Ash: 2 (The Sandlin PI Series) https://amzn.eu/d/iazOPnc
I hope you enjoyed Sue Shepherd’s Publication Journey. Here are links to previous authors who have written their Publication Journey stories for the blog: