My Journey to Publication – Guest Post by James Nicol

James Nicol - Guest PostI’ve been a HUGE fan of Arianwyn’s journey, and that of the talented James, every since I first ventured to Lull. James has created a simply wonderful, magical book trilogy. I may, or may not, be shedding a quiet tear over the end of this series (room for another book… surely?!?!?!), however Arianwyn and her quiet determination is a character who will continue to enchant many readers to come.

James Nicol’s journey to publication is certainly an exciting one… so I couldn’t resist the chance to ask James to share it with My Book Corner readers…

My publication journey was one of surprise, chance, hard work and luck!

There is a DH Lawrence quote “It’s better to be born lucky than rich.” And the more I think about it the more I agree, but I also think we can create our own luck as well.
My publication journey began back in 2012 and there have been a few milestones to celebrate along the way. One of the biggest was being accepted into The Golden Egg Academy in 2013. It was at Golden Egg that I met and worked with the brilliant Bella Pearson, she became my mentor as I worked with Golden Egg. She was the books very first champion and key to me landing my first publishing contract with Chicken House.

In July 2014 at a one to one with Bella she mentioned that she wanted to submit my novel (then titled The Apprentice Witches Handbook) to Barry Cunningham at Chicken House as they were offering scholarships for Golden Egg students who they felt had promise. I was flattered that Bella thought that they might even consider me and my odd little story, but was also realistic and under no illusion. We were, after all, submitting a book full of broomsticks, witches and magic to the man who found Harry Potter. My expectations of the outcome were low, perhaps a bit of feedback on the story that might help me improve things – but not much more beyond that.

As I soon discovered you do a LOT of waiting in publishing, it’s not a profession for the inpatient or faint of heart. Summer slipped into autumn and then I was asked to meet Barry for tea and to chat about the book and the scholarship. I’m not sure how I held my nerve, but off I trundled to London for tea and a chat with the legendary Barry Cunningham – who is surely descended from some sort of magical imp or sprite I think! We chatted through the story and some of the ideas I had for a second and third adventures. Barry asked lots of questions, not just about the book but about me as well. I explained I had just finished a new draft of the book and he asked to see it straight away.

I couldn’t get home fast enough and sent the email across, then fell into despair as even Bella hadn’t read it at that point, what if I had made it 1000 times worse? What was I thinking? Barry emailed back to say he had the draft and was about to go away for a few weeks travelling. I assumed this meant another long wait. But actually it was only a wait until Saturday evening when Barry called (from Miami airport of all places!) to say he was reading the new draft and wanted to meet as soon as he got back from his trip. Did I pass out? I don’t know. I remember hanging the phone up in a rather stunned manner though.

A few anxious weeks of waiting later and on a dank foggy November afternoon I went down to London for a second meeting, thankfully this time Imogen Cooper from Golden Egg kindly came along for moral support. We discussed the draft, what was working, and mostly -what wasn’t – all of the second half of the book it seemed. Oh, and I needed a new antagonist as well and try not to make it too epic, Barry said. Its strength is in the domestic details and the relationships. It did seem obvious after he had told me that. That was, after all what I loved in books that I read, the glimpse of the lives and real worlds within the fantasies.

My mind felt as foggy as the weather outside the train carriage as I wended my way back home. But somewhere between London and Cambridge I wondered about that nasty girl, Gimma Alverston, and just what sort of trouble would be caused if she found herself in Lull alongside Arianwyn. . . By the time I’d got home, I’d outlined a new draft of the story – and I was sooo excited I could have popped!

I spent most of Christmas and early January working on the new outline and some new chapters to send back to Barry and once they had gone the wafting started all over again. But I had decided my new way forward was THE way forward for the story. So, I set to work on a full re-write based on my new outline, hoping that would keep me distracted whilst I waited.
Around the middle of March I exchanged a few emails with the sublime, Rachel Leyshon – Editorial Director at Chicken House. She asked for a short biography and some other chapters from the original draft of the book. I had no idea why she was asking for any of this, was it part of the scholarship process? Nobody quite seemed to know. The next thing I heard the new chapters and outline were being shared at the next acquisitions meeting – what was that? (I’m glad now I didn’t know!)
Then I was asked if I was available for a phone call with Barry and Rachel. I remember it was a Tuesday afternoon and I had worked myself up to the notion that it was going to be a no on the scholarship front, even so I was really nervous. I managed to make sure I was working from home in the afternoon so I wouldn’t have to take the phone call – that was sure to be a no – in front of my colleagues. At this point hardly anyone I worled with even knew I was writing a book!
Sure enough after the hellos and the how are yous? Rachel kindly cut to the chase, ‘We’re not going to offer you the scholarship.’ She said.
‘No, I’d guessed you wouldn’t.’ I replied, relieved that was done.
A brief pause.
‘But. . . we would really like to publish your book!’
I can still feel the jolt of excitement that raced through me. It started in my toes and went all the way up my legs, spine and out through my hair! I was stunned, speechless and all those clichés you can imagine.

As often tends to be the way with good news, the only other living creature around was my dog, Bonnie. She wasn’t half as excited as you would think, but she was pleased about the celebratory walk we had. I also spoke to my friend, and fellow author, Lorraine Gregory on the phone, she squealed down the phone at me which was really lovely.

And the rest, as they say, is history! Now three books later (THREE BOOKS!!) I’m getting ready to say cheerio to Arianwyn and co (for now) and to see what new adventures and stories are waiting out there for me.

Apprentice Witch series banner

Thanks James!

Just in case, you haven’t had the chance to visit Lull yet – the first book in the series is The Apprentice Witch, followed by A Witch Alone and finally (sob!) A Witch Come True.

My Book Corner’s Journey To Publication series is becoming very popular, previous posts include…

Kate Wiseman

Chitra Soundar

If you’re a book creator who’d like to take part, drop me a line!

1 Response

  1. Thanks for sharing your publication journey, James. It’s certainly true you need patience and a big slug of determination, too! Congratulations on your series.

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