I really can’t remember where I first stumbled across Joy Wood and her debut novel, For the Love of Emily, but it might just have been in the early days of Book Connectors. I added the book to my kindle, and was really touched when Joy got in touch to say thank you. We chatted a bit – as you do – and she said something that made me want to give her a hug… “I’m not really an author – I’m a nurse”. Now, I don’t know about you, but when someone has jumped every hurdle to produce a really professionally produced book that I liked the look of enough to buy, they’ve most certainly earned their title of “author”. I’ll be reading and reviewing the book in August.
I asked Joy to tell me her personal story, and I’m delighted to be able to share it. I’ll tell you more about For the Love of Emily afterwards, and how you can get hold of it. But first, grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable, and let me hand you over to author Joy Wood…
Has everyone got a book in them? We’ve all had amazing experiences in our life, some fantastic and some not so good, but how often have we heard, or used the expression, ‘This would make a really good book?’ I know I’ve said it many times, but I’m not sure the situations in my life would make interesting reading really. I think it’s better for me to make it up as I go along!
I’ve always enjoyed reading and love nothing more than having time to read a fantastic story. You know the ones I mean, they have such a good plot and you eagerly turned each page, desperate to find out the ending. Sometimes you stay up until the early hours, knowing you just have to see what happens, and then once it’s finished, you feel frustrated because the book you were living in, is now over and you have to search for another.
I progressed from daydreaming about stories, to consumer competitions. Do you remember the days when you did your supermarket shopping and next to the wash powder, toiler rolls or cook-in sauces, there was shiny leaflet saying in bold letters WIN? Well, I was one of those winning.
Over many years I was fortunate to win a significant amount of prizes and loved nothing more than buying whatever product was on a winning promotion to get the ‘proof of purchase’ so that I could enter. At first, I didn’t win a sausage, but I quickly learned the key to a winning slogan was humour. So I changed my style and made sure that each slogan I wrote contained something witty, and the prizes flooded in.
I also loved writing poems especially when anyone was finishing work. I used to study their little characteristics, and combine them in a poem to be read out when they were due to leave. I even wrote my own once when I was saying goodbye to a particular post that I loved in theatres at a local hospital. I wrote about all the staff, and of course the surgeons who all had their fair share of idiosyncrasies I can tell you!
But the thing I really wanted to do most of all was to write a book. That was easier said than done though – life got the way. As a busy mother, stepmother and working nurse, there wasn’t much time for writing. Bills needed to be paid, and shifts needed to be worked.
That all changed in 2013, when in-between jobs, my husband and I moved to Cleethorpes so that we could enjoy the seaside. We’d previously lived in a village and travelled everywhere by car, so it was wonderful to be able to walk along the seafront each day and enjoy the seasons. Our neighbours thought we were so healthy, when in fact we were stopping off for bacon sandwiches and afternoon teas! Alas, the expanding waistline called a halt to all of that I’m afraid, although we do still enjoy a walk each day, but just stick to coffee if we stop!
During the walks, I formulated a story in my head and told my husband I was finally going to write it. I had some workmen at the house laying in a new drive and as I was busy making them tea and snacks (can’t workmen eat and drink tea – not once did they ever say, no thank you when I offered them a drink!), so while the work was going on outside, I busied myself inside the house on my laptop.
I began my story which I initially called An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove. I would walk along Cleethorpes seafront each morning and think of the characters and the plot, and then return to the house to type my thoughts. My husband told the builders I was writing a sexy novel and they asked if they could be in it! I told them that if they were thirty years younger and wearing lycra that fitted like a glove, then I’d consider it, but sadly…
It took me almost a year to complete the story, and once I had done, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I loved it, but I didn’t have the confidence to show anyone. I knew my lovely family and friends would read it and say encouraging things to me, and as nice as that would be, it wasn’t that I needed. I wanted help. I felt the story was good, but knew I wasn’t a ‘real writer’. I sat on the manuscript for months not quite sure what to do, and then one day I was reading the local newspaper, and saw an article about three authors facilitating an ‘author day’ in Grimsby shopping centre. They were encouraging people to attend who had either written a story, or had a story in them and wanted to write it, or basically just wanted to meet them to chat about writing.
I eagerly went along and it was such an informative day. I left rich in information, but poor in my purse having purchased each of their books (one of them had a trilogy!) as a thank you for all of their helpful advice. I emailed one of the authors thanking her a few days later, and she informed me that she’d put some photographs of the ‘author day’ on face book but couldn’t find me to tag me in. No wonder she was having problems – I wasn’t even on Facebook.
Following the advice from the author day, I realised I needed my work editing. The thought of somebody ‘professional’ actually reading my story, filled me with fear to be honest. I read all that I could online about editors and eventually found one that I liked the look of that had been highly recommended by several writers. I sent an email explaining that I wasn’t a ‘real writer’ but that I’d written a novel that needed editing. He was lovely and advised sending him the synopsis and 3 chapters so he could edit them for free and to see if he thought my writing was of a standard that he was willing to edit, and to also see if I wanted him to edit the book. That made me laugh, I’d have been delighted for him to edit it if it was good enough.
I really wanted to send him the three chapters, but was nervous as nobody had read the story but me. I kept thinking, is it good enough, will he think its rubbish. I didn’t send it straight away as I was worried about him saying it wasn’t good enough which would have shattered my dream. I pondered for about another ten days after repeatedly telling myself (hundreds of times!) I needed to be brave. What was the worst he could say? I tentatively sent him the chapters, half expecting that he would send it back and say, “don’t give up the day job” sort of thing.
The three chapters came back almost straight away. Yes, he liked the synopsis and felt the story was worth telling which was a positive, but the negative was, there was a lot of work to do. I don’t think even then I realised quite how much there was to alter. I now know I was jumping from one character to another as I didn’t understand the importance of POV. I’m in my fifties and it soon became apparent that my writing was out of date for today’s market.
So, the hard work began and the editor set me some work on the POV. He wanted my storytelling to shine through, so his approach was more of “think about this” – “is there a better way to tell it,” rather than telling me what I needed to write. Then came his fabulous directive, “cut the fluff” which is his recommendation to take out all the additional writing that doesn’t add value to the story, and believe you me, I had a lot of fluff to cut.
I did the necessary rewrites, and over the months, my twee story became a bit raunchy, and then a bit raunchier. The editor told me that sex sells, so I upped the ante somewhat! Many months later, and pounds lighter (monetary that is, sadly!) the editing work was complete.
I finally had a story.
The editor and I had agreed the title wasn’t working, so An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove, became For the Love of Emily. I wanted a nice cover and my editor recommended someone to help me. I did search on line, but I looked at this particular lady’s work and liked it. We worked together and she came up with three covers all of which I loved. I emailed everyone in my address book (and a few more) the three covers, asking if they would vote on their preference. This was really helpful and increased people’s interest in my book so I would definitely recommend doing that, and I’ll certainly use this approach again.
I launched For the Love of Emily in August 2015 expecting to sell 50 copies, but hoping to sell 100. I did a launch party at my house for family and friends and an online launch (not bad for someone new to Facebook!). I then contacted local newspapers who were very supportive and wrote some lovely things about me.
I went on the radio and even appeared on Estuary TV which I’m never doing again as it visually added pounds – and I’m sure that wasn’t really me being interviewed – it looked very like my mother on TV giving the interview!
I have done several book signings and am so grateful for those that have facilitated these. I’ve been in café’s, libraries and at Waterstones at Christmas and they ran out of my books at a signing event, but I’d followed my Girl Guide motto ‘be prepared’, and had extra supplies with me.
I’ve spoken at coffee mornings and at creative writing groups, which is ongoing and I love doing. It’s not just about selling books, it’s about encouraging people who are just starting out, or want to get started. I’m not portraying myself as an expert by any means, but it’s great to be able to share the joys and the pitfalls and hopefully help anyway I can. I don’t have all the answers but have managed to build up a fantastic support group so if I don’t know the answer, I can find someone who will.
I have been overwhelmed by the support that I’ve received locally, and the online community have been absolutely fabulous. Any particular queries, I’ve found someone that has helped me and any doubts I’ve had, I’ve been encouraged. I struggle a bit with Twitter, and again, I’m getting help and advice with that. People genuinely want me to do well, and I am so grateful for that. It’s heart-warming and deeply humbling.
Any advice to would be writers? Go for it. It’s opened up a whole new world to me and I’m so blessed with the support that I’ve had. I look at the reviews on Amazon for my book and pinch myself. I still can’t believe people are reading the work that I’ve sweated over, and have written such lovely things about it. You can’t get better than that.
Have I exceeded my 100 sales – oh, yes. Do I want to sell more, oh, yes please!
I so hope you sell far more Joy – I love your story! Let’s take a closer look at Joy’s book, For the Love of Emily…
Rebecca Price Jones is a beautiful young woman with a deadly secret. Emily, her precious twin sister is hidden away where nobody can find her. To pay for Emily’s keep, Rebecca creates beautiful dresses by day and works as ‘Kate’, a high-class prostitute for female clients at night.
Darlene Milner, a rich gay middle-aged socialite becomes besotted and plans to keep Rebecca all to herself, until Ezzio Marin, a wealthy businessman with a ruthless attitude in the boardroom and the bedroom decides that he wants the same.
When the two cross paths, Rebecca’s past unravels and her secret comes out with dire consequences.
From the lavish lifestyle of the rich and powerful, to the drama of a British courtroom, For the Love of Emily is a story of murder, blackmail and passion.
Available here in paperback and for kindle.
Follow Joy through her Facebook author page or on Twitter.