Guest blogger Keren David is a writer and journalist. Her debut YA novel When I Was Joe is published in the UK by Frances Lincoln books. The sequel Almost True will follow in August. Both books will be published by dTV in Germany, Walker Books in Australia and Frances Lincoln in the US. She lived in Amsterdam for eight years and Glasgow for two but it is London that feels like home. Connect with Keren on Twitter @kerensd or on her blog Almost True
I get a little embarrassed when I tell my story of how I got published. It is far from the usual lengthy saga of years of hope and struggle.
In fact I went from starting to write the book to publication in around 21 months. A plot-planning exercise at my evening class in March 2008 turned into a first chapter by April. Three months later I had an 80,000 word first draft of a novel.
Sickening, I know. If you’re a struggling writer with numerous manuscripts stuffed into drawers then I bet you hate me right now. Jammy cow. How come she had it so easy?
Well, now I come to think about it, maybe I’m exaggerating the speed of the whole process. Maybe my path to publication actually started in September 2007, when my family stopped being expats after eight years in Amsterdam and arrived back in London.
Adjusting to a very different way of life was traumatic and exciting at the same time. Watching my children start at new schools and make new friends helped me imagine my way into the head of a boy who has to change everything about his life, including his name and the colour of his eyes.
Or perhaps the starting point was actually March 1999, when my husband got a job in Amsterdam. Moving there with no friends, no extended family, I struggled with depression and loneliness. These were pre-internet days. Without that alienating experience of feeling utterly isolated, could I have understood how lost and angry the boy’s mother might feel?
Or maybe the novel was born along with my son Daniel in February 1998. Daniel never got to go out into the world, as my fictional characters will. He was stillborn, at full term, a terrible, inexplicable tragedy.
Losing Daniel gave me a far greater understanding of suffering - a dreadful thing to live through, a bittersweet gift to a writer. Losing him made me determined that some day I would do something worthy of his memory, something that might make a difference to others. It took ten years to realise what that might be.
Let’s go back further - to the late 1960s. At infant school I met a girl called Hilary, who became my Best Friend. We’d invent whole schools of children, drawing them, naming them, making up stories about them. We played with Barbies and Sindys, acting out lurid adventures. We convinced ourselves that there was buried treasure in the school playground and planned to meet in the dead of night to dig it up.
Our friendship nurtured our imaginations - and we were lucky enough to be at a primary school which valued creativity. At 11 we wrote a play and performed it to the whole school – and I experienced the joy of making an audience laugh. Even when I was terminally bored at secondary school, even when I was busily building a career or buried in motherhood I never quite forgot the sheer fun to be had from losing yourself in a made-up world.
Or take it right back to the beginning. Somehow my scientist parents had a little girl who liked to watch and write and weave stories. Who knows where that comes from? Who knows when it started?
So, 21 months is just one measure of my path to publication. And it was fast, and it did feel urgent and during those months I had my share of luck and desperation, determination, rejection, dejection and complete elation. But the real story is longer and deeper, and I’ve hardly told you any of it at all.
I just hope that I can keep on writing, because now I’ve discovered that I can write books, it feels like it’s what I was always meant to do.